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Are You at Risk for Text Neck?

From the Show: Health Radio
Summary: Text neck refers to the repetitive stress you're putting on your neck and back from constantly staring down at your phone.
Air Date: 6/3/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Alfred O. Bonati, MD
dr bonati Dr. Alfred Bonati is the Chief Orthopedic Surgeon, founder and CEO of the Bonati Spine Institute, located in Tampa Bay, Florida. His pioneering work in outpatient, minimally-invasive spine surgery made medical history by providing an alternative to the traditional open-surgery to treat most spinal conditions. Dr. Bonati created, perfected and patented the precise tools and methods, known as the Bonati Spine Procedures, to minimize anesthesia, surgical scarring, and recovery time.

Moreover,The Bonati Spine Institute was the first ambulatory surgical center in the United States to receive FDA approval for the use of a laser in spine surgery. Dr. Bonati is a graduate of the University of Seville and the Bowman Gray Medical School, and completed internships and residencies at Cook County Hospital (Chicago), the University of Alabama, and Georgetown University. He is also a Diplomat in the International College of Surgeons, the American Board of Neurological, Orthopedic Medicine and Surgery, and the Arthroscopy Board of North America.
Are You at Risk for Text Neck?
Did you know that people check their cell phone every six minutes with an average of 150 looks per day?

Add to that the use of other electronic handheld devices, and you are bound to have a sore neck and perhaps a sore back.

Is text neck the next phenomenon? Can craning your neck looking at a cell phone or electronic device cause back and neck problems?

Everyone from young to old seems to be glued to their electronic devices. There might be a rise in children's back and neck problems due to the increasing use of cell phones and other devices at such a young age.

Just how will this affect their necks and backs?

Dr. Alfred O. Bonati shares how constantly looking down at your phone or tablets can increase your risk of back and neck pain.

RadioMD PresentsHealth Radio | Original Air Date: June 3, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Alfred O. Bonati, MD

It’s Health Radio. Here’s Melanie Cole.

MELANIE: So, did you know that people check their cell phones every six minutes with an average of 150 looks on their phone per day? You know, I am somebody that – if you’ve heard me talk before – I have this little piece of crap cell phone. It’s like a flip phone still. So, I don’t really text, and I only use the phone for emergencies only. But, you know, the thing is I can see with my kids: my son, 15, has an iPhone, my husband has some kind of Android, and now my 12-year-old daughter finally convinced us to get her a phone. She’s almost 13. So, we got her one. And all I can say is that when these kids are sitting there staring down at their phones again and again and again, and I am in sports medicine for a living. It’s making me crazy. So, we’re going to see a rise in what they’re calling “text neck.” So, what is “text neck”? I’m going to tell you right now because it’s becoming an epidemic. I’m seeing it right here in my household.

So, your human head weighs about 12 pounds. We learned that in Jerry McGuire, right? I think he said 10 but it’s almost 12. So, as your neck bends forward, kyphosis is this position. It’s what you see in old people when they are looking down at the ground because their posture is so bad because their rhomboid muscles between their shoulder blades get really, really weak. Well, that is what’s going to contribute to “text neck.” Actually, I have a guest today. He’s Dr. Alfred Bonati. He’s the chief orthopedic surgeon, founder, and CEO of The Bonati Spine Institute in Tampa Bay. Oh! Tampa Bay.

Welcome to the show, Dr. Bonati. We’re here in Chicago.

DR. BONATI: We’re raining here.

MELANIE: It is! But you know, the Blackhawks are playing Tampa tonight.

DR. BONATI: Yeah, I know.

MELANIE: There’s a big hockey game going on tonight. Anyways, let’s talk about “text neck.”

DR. BONATI: We’re going to win anyway.

MELANIE: You think so?


MELANIE: Okay. This is good. This is good. So, “text neck.” I was saying before, I’m an exercise physiologist, Dr. Bonati, and my children now have their phones, and I see them and my husband with their faces down at their phone. Tell us about “text neck” and what can we do to avoid it. Are we supposed to get our loved ones to hold their phones up in the air so that they’re looking straight ahead at them?

DR. BONATI: Well, usually what happens with these things is they create a bad custom to sustain your neck in the wrong position to try to hold the phone. So, if you continue doing that – I think the new techniques and the new ways to use the phone are probably going to correct the problem. But right now there are a lot of people that are using the phone and are holding the phone with their shoulder and they are using their hands for other things. So, when they do that, they create a lateral rotation of the vertebras on the neck and the ligaments and the muscles, and, initially, it’s not really a major problem. But then if you do that one for a living or if you do that one because you are in some type of a profession that requires that you use your hands free and your phone is being held by your shoulder practically, then you develop two problems. One is problems the problem of elevating your shoulder. When you do that, you create spasms of the muscles.

MELANIE: So, you’re talking about when you’re holding the phone up to your ear?

DR. BONATI: When you’re holding your phone. Exactly.

MELANIE: So, back in the day – now I don’t know how old you are, Dr. Bonati – but back in the day when we had the landline phones--I still have one--and you held the phone up to your ear, people would get that pain on the one side, right? And you would hold it with your shoulder, which is just even worse, and then you start to develop that pain in your neck and your shoulder. But nowadays with this “text neck,” the kids are getting that kyphotic curve. They’re getting that posture – I’m seeing it all over the place – because they’re looking down texting.

DR. BONATI: Yes. Well, what I’m referring to is that one part of the problem is when they hold the phone like that, and that will create spasms in the lateral parts of the muscles and create problems exactly on the facets on that side. Now, if you are going to be sitting in a position and your neck is all the way down, then you are practically creating kyphotic deformity on your neck if you sustain that one for long periods of time. Now, what you are doing is also affecting the facets in both sides, and you are hyperextending those facets. When you hyperextend the facets, you are going to produce some extension of the posterior primary rami, which is a small little nerves that feeds the facets for sensitivity. When you do that, you’re going to have neck pain.

MELANIE: Okay. If you get this neck pain – because we have to get to some information, some tips that you have for people, these are short segments and we only have a few minutes left here – but if you look around, you’re on the bus, the train, the subway, everybody has their heads down. Everybody is hunched over reading their emails and sending texts. Aside from the carpal tunnel their going to get from their thumbs—really. How fast can they text? Oh, my god. That’s going to be something we’re going to see down the line. What would you recommend if somebody came to you and said, “My 15-year-old son has his head down all the dang time because he’s texting constantly or checking email.” They don’t even check email anymore. Now, it’s Instagram and texting. What do you tell them to tell their children? What do you tell them to tell their business partners?

DR. BONATI: Well, unfortunately, because the technology requires that motion, there is very little that you can tell them. You need to educate them. You need to tell them, “Look, if you do this, this is going to create problems in this and these areas, and that is going to create pain. And then you’re going to have problems when you sleep and you’re going to have problems when you are active because your neck is going to hurt. So, at this stage, we don’t have anything that we can go ahead and substitute for that tool. The only solution that I see is that you tell them, “Stand up straight, get your neck up, and try to do the texting in a situation that is almost at the same height as your nose.” This is not going to happen. First, they are kids and they’re not going to pay attention.

MELANIE: They’re not going to pay attention, too. It’s like you know there are standing desks these days and you’re raising up everything so that you can stand and it’s at eye level – your computers. We certainly talk about that on my American College of Sports Medicine show. But with this, you’re forced to look down because who wants to hold their phone up in front of their face? So, I just would like you in the last minute – you know if somebody came to you – just give us your best advice in just this last minute of what you would tell your own son or daughter about “text neck” and getting their face up while they sit there texting.

DR. BONATI: I would teach them a little bit of the anatomy of the neck, and I would tell them, “These nerves are going to be effected, these joints are going to be effected, and you are going to suffer from neck pain.” Now, is that effective? I don’t think so. And right now, we don’t have any tool that can support this instrument at the height that is necessary to maintain the neck strength. So, we can recommend braces and we can recommend something called the “Head Straight.” It’s just education that we can do. Unfortunately, it’s just education. But you are also talking to warriors. These people, at that age, they feel that they are indestructible.

MELANIE: Absolutely, they do.

DR. BONATI: So, how are you going to solve the problem? The only way you are going to solve this is by education and by being alert.

MELANIE: I have to cut you off because we’re out of time, but as parents we have to get on your kids, poke your finger between their shoulder blades, because did you realize that the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase at a 15 degree angle, that weight is 27 pounds. At 30 degrees, it’s 40. As it increases, it could be 60 degrees at 60 pounds. So can you image carrying 60 pounds like an 8-year-old around your neck for several hours per day? Stop texting with your heads down and looking at your email. Hold it up. Teach your kids as Dr. Bonati said. Education: that’s the big key.

This is Melanie Cole. You’re listening to Health Radio right here on Radio MD. Love it.