Text Neck syndrome common in the UAE, say doctors

Text Neck syndrome common in the UAE, say doctors

Dubai - Here are some tips to remember while using smartphones.


Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Sun 15 Jul 2018, 7:26 PM

There is a fine line of discipline and balancing out and being strict on cutting down on texting and use of smartphones, said experts in the UAE,

Let's admit it we all like texting under any pretext - work or leisure. It does not matter how long, where and when, as long as it helps us stay connected. We are ready to pay any price and are seldom concerned about the damage it does to our health.

Dr Sadashiva Somayaji, specialist orthopaedic surgeon, NMC Specialty Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said: "Excess texting takes you away from important things. Most people lose track of time when they are on their smartphones considering how many things we can do on these devices - from checking news, watching sports, being on social media sites, checking email and texts. The negative impact is that it leaves you with less time for important things such as sleep, leisure time, work, and family time. Texting is an addiction and smartphones are powerful tools and can be addictive."

Tips to remember while using smartphones

> Always beware of your posture while texting. Do not look down at the phone constantly, bring the phone up to the level of your eyes. Hold the phone at a comfortable distance from your face and text. It may look odd but will help avoid neck problems.

> Do not text while driving

> Try and reduce the urge to reply to a text immediately unless you know it's urgent. Take regular breaks from using smartphones and texting.

> Completely avoid using smartphones in bed. Try to keep it away from your bedroom, although if you necessarily need to charge it or to keep an alarm, avoid using the smartphone and texting at least an hour before you get to bed.
Dr Anandi Damodaran, neurologist, Zulekha Hospital Sharjah, said: "Impact of excess texting is mostly related to our posture. 'Text Neck' is a modern term used to describe neck pain and damage from looking down at your phone or other devices for a long time and also frequently."

"This can lead to permanent damage to cervical spine especially in children in whom the skeleton is still developing there is also premature degeneration of spine in those persons. Texting also changes brain rhythm. This utilises a major portion of brain activity, attention, concentration and motor skills. This can be dangerous when you are texting and driving," she said.

"We are getting cases of 'Text Neck' in the UAE and mainly among adolescents," she added.

Dr Niya Jamaludheen, general physician at Aster Clinic, International City, said: "More than being tech-savvy, we have now become tech addicts. Everybody from a working adult to a school going child now has a smartphone and uses it constantly for various purposes like keeping an alarm or reminder, watching videos, listening to music and majorly, texting.

"Most people communicate only through texts. From the time one wakes up until we get to bed, the one thing we have on us constantly and use without a break is our smartphone," she added.

Calling people over phone used to be the way of communication, although now, communication and keeping in touch is done through texts. Teenagers/children, in particular, are always engaged in their phones, texting their peers, irrespective of the time of the day, said Dr Jamaludheen. "Students between the ages of 14-21 prefer to text than making a conversation. Addiction to these gadgets is only a small side effect, while there are more other severe consequences of texting continuously. Texting has various psychological, neurological and physical health consequences, it does a lot more to your body than you realise because the ill effects do not present any depictive symptoms. Texting has its positives and negatives. As much as it helps keep people connected, it is often associated with feelings like anxiety, depression and the fear of being overexposed."

The UAE has an almost 99 per cent internet penetration of smartphones, according to research from a university based in the Middle East. Almost 97 per cent use mobile data and 57 per cent use Wi-Fi.

Are clinics and hospitals in the UAE getting cases complaining of health issues due to excess texting? Yes! UAE being a progressive community of expats has a large population with access to modern android devices helping them communicate more and hence increased 'screen' time.

"We have been seeing an increasing number of patients coming in with neck pain and muscle spasm. This is more during morning times when the patient has been texting at night with an abnormal posture putting a strain on the neck," said Dr Syed Haider Imam Zaidi, general practitioner and medical director, Al Tadawi Medical Centre.

Dr Jamaludheen said: "Irrespective of the country, this has now become a common practice. In the UAE, too many people suffer from physical discomfort issues, the reasons for which could vary. Nobody consults a doctor complaining of health problems caused due to 'excessive texting'."

"People often come in with back and neck pains, migraines etc. Evaluation and investigation of their specific cases and understanding various causes of the conditions, lead us to understand that the condition could be caused as a result of the unhealthy practice of texting constantly."

During long hours of chatting, the posture of an individual might remain static for hours, leading to constant stress on the neck and upper shoulders. Beginning as a vague pain, it could soon progress into debilitating conditions of the cervical spine something now known as text neck, explained Dr Zaidi.

"Higher rates of texting is found in young population between early 16-35 years of age on an average. This, however, is not a strict cut off as more and more commercial organisation with different age groups are moving to chat apps for constant official communication."

Excess texting causes physical issues

> Sleep issues: Sleep is an important process that helps regain and restore energy. If you are not completely involved, it disrupts the sleep-wake cycle making it further difficult to concentrate in activities. Teenagers particularly, these days are used to the habit of looking at their phones at even odd times, like at night, in the middle of sleep etc.

> Poor posture: Increased use of smartphones is known to cause bad posture causing issues like a backward curve in the neck caused as a result of looking down at the phone.

> Text thumb: Most people use their thumbs to text, the human thumb is designed to assist in gripping things and not perform repeated acts like texting. Texting with the thumb exerts stress on the wrist and thumb because it is not meant to work that way. This may cause pain or stiffness in the thumb that will worsen with texting.

> Text claw: This refers to the pain in the wrist and throughout the hand caused as a result of constant texting. It also causes cramped fingers that are difficult to move.

> Text neck: The neck pain caused as a result of constantly looking down at the mobile is called text neck. This is caused because all the muscles in the neck get excessively stressed and strained when you are always looking down to text. In addition to these conditions, constant texting also causes severe migraines, nerve damage, vision and eyesight damage etc.


KT NANO EDIT: A balanced approach

Texting has become integral to every person, be it in personal or professional lives. And it is rather unfortunate. Without denying its advantages, there is nothing more desirable than 'talking' to each other where the connection is at a deeper level. What is needed is a balanced approach. As humans, we should have the wisdom to make technology work for us so that we progress and not regress.

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