Texting is bad for your health. Do it while walking and you can bump into walls or step out into traffic. Studies have linked excessive texting with insomnia, stress and painful tendons (BlackBerry thumb). Now the United Chiropractic Association (UCA) has warned that texting for long periods could lower life expectancy because it makes people lean forward. The association links “forward-leaning posture” (defined as dropping the head forward and rounding the shoulders) with the risk of developing hyperkyphosis in old age. Hyperkyphosis is an abnormal rounding of the upper spine that reduces the space available for the heart and lungs, so they are put under pressure and work less effectively. An older person with hyperkyphosis, chiropractors warn, will suffer the same increase in the risk of death as an obese person. The association is encouraging people to have their posture checked by a registered chiropractor. So should you limit your texting immediately?
Most people text too much (during meetings, at meals and when they’re talking to you), and it’s really annoying. But there is no good evidence that adopting the texting posture will cause structural changes to your back and lead to an increased risk of premature death.
The UCA’s warning that poor posture is as big a threat to health as obesity is both dramatic and unfounded. That isn’t to say that the forward-leaning position is harmless. A study from the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research in Sweden found that texting made people bend their head forward by more than 10 degrees and those who texted the most had the most neck and/or shoulder pain. A small study of 138 students from Temple University in the US also found a link between texting and neck and shoulder pain, but only in men sending more than 21 texts a day.
The condition of “text neck” caused by increased stress and muscle spasm is now a recognised 21st-century syndrome. If you want to avoid text neck, try meeting up with people, writing letters or phoning instead. If you must text, take a break after five minutes. Also hold your phone up so that it is at mouth height and you can see the screen by looking down with your eyes, rather than bending your neck. Generally, however, research does not suggest there are any long-term risks. Texting does not seem to cause chronic backache and a report in the European Spine Journal states that that no interventions for poor posture reduced neck pain in workers. While medical professionals disagree on what constitutes good posture, most would agree that hunching for hours over a mobile phone falls into the not-so-good category.