This Is Your Body on Texting

Four ways that fiddling with our phones can have a negative effect on our bodies.

texting

Can’t ignore the ping of your phone alerts? Do you text more conversations than you speak? You’re not alone.

As of 2014, 90 percent of American adults own cell phones and 81 percent of those people use them to text, according to the Pew Research Center.

The average person sends or receives 50 text messages daily, making for a combined 2.19 trillion annual texts. And that doesn’t account for the rest of the time we spend on our phones — talking, surfing the Web, or using apps.

All that fiddling with our phones can have a negative effect on our bodies. Here are just a few examples of texting’s physical downsides.

Aching Neck and Sore Back

Texting’s habitual head-down posture can put dangerous pressure on the spine, according to 2014 research by orthopedic surgeon Kenneth Hansraj, MD. An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds (about the same as a bowling ball), and as we tilt it forward, it exerts pressure — up to 60 pounds at a 60-degree angle. That can result in a sore back or neck.

What You Can Do: Raise your phone so your ears are directly above your shoulders.

Text Thumb

While this is not an officially diagnosed medical condition, gripping and holding cell phones can constrict our flexor tendons. Because our thumbs do not have the dexterity of our other fingers, excess texting can result in pain (and sometimes a popping sound) on the outside of your thumb around the wrist. You may also suffer a decrease in grip strength or range of motion.

What You Can Do: Use your phone’s voice-recognition feature rather than manually texting. Or try incorporating other fingers into your texting method.

Breathing Issues

Our forward-leaning posture can impede breathing, according to the UK’s United Chiropractic Association. Dropping the head and rounding our shoulders makes taking full, deep breaths harder. Moreover, our ribs cannot move properly in this position, and it decreases our hearts’ and lungs’ ability to function effectively. Finally, researchers have found that we often hold our breath or breathe shallowly while computing or texting — a habit they term “screen apnea.” The result is increased stress and heart-rate levels.

What You Can Do: Take a break now and then to breathe slowly and deeply. Get up and stretch every hour or so. Set the timer on your phone to remind you.

Text Claw

Because texting requires fine-motor activity, it may lead to “text claw,” a habitual clenching that can lead to repetitive stress injuries such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

What You Can Do: Regularly stretch and move hands through their full range of motion.

is Experience Life's staff writer.

Illustration by Kveta

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