(NaturalNews) Modern technology has added yet another entry to the long catalog of lifestyle diseases and injuries that now plague our society: "text neck."
Text neck, a term originally coined by a Florida chiropractor, describes a type of chronic neck and back pain caused by overuse of the head, neck and shoulders due to long periods of time spent looking down at a cell phone, mp3 player, tablet, e-reader, laptop or other mobile device.
"People get so focused on these devices that they end up holding their neck and upper back in abnormal positions for a long period of time; enough that ... people coined the phrase 'text neck,'" said orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist Chris Cornett of the University of Nebraska.
According to Cornett, text neck falls under the category of postural pain, or pain caused due to excessive time spent in an unnatural posture.
"When you hold your body in an abnormal position, it can increase stress on the muscles, cause fatigue, muscle spasms and even stress headaches," Cornett said. "With every degree of motion to the front or side that you move your head, the stress on your neck is magnified beyond just the weight of the head."
In all likelihood, Cornett added, text neck and other postural pain will increase stress on the rest of your neck over the long term, potentially leading to disc or joint problems.
Not just afflicting the young
Text neck can occur in anyone who spends long hours bent over mobile devices.
"We see it as a frequent complaint," Cornett said, "and I would estimate that more and more people over time, as technology use continues to expand, will experience this kind of discomfort and injuries from text neck."
Although there's a cultural idea of young people spending endless hours bent over their phones, Kerry Rodocker-Wiarda, of Kerry's Chiropractic in Grand Island, Nebraska, says she has actually seen a greater increase in postural pain among older people.
"Even the older adults have the games now on their phones and we've seen them coming in," she said.
Postural pain need not come from electronic devices, Rodocker-Wiarda said, noting that even reading a book at the wrong angle can cause your head and shoulders to pull forward, straining your back and neck muscles.
"If you sit and read a book too long, that is the same position."
In addition, heavy backpacks combined with poor posture are a common cause of similar problems in children.
"Eventually, your muscles just can't take it anymore and you can feel the knot at the trigger points where they have tightened up," she said.
So how can you avoid developing text neck? Cornett suggests three major strategies. First, get in good shape, as a strong neck and back are less prone to strain. Second, make sure you have good posture, with your eyes straight forward, when using electronic devices.
Finally, acknowledge how much time you spend using electronic devices and commit to splitting that up into smaller chunks with regular breaks.
"Just try not to spend so much time on it," Rodocker-Wiarda said.