In the sports world, repetitive movements and muscle overuse eventually lead to strain and injury.
The consequences of staring down at our phones day in and day out? Text neck. It’s the poor posture that results from your bent head adding tension to your neck and spine.
One Pilates class in New York City — “Pilates for Text Necks” — is tackling this 21st century malady.
“The more and more that people are texting and being on their computers,” said Kimberly Fielding, creator of the class and director of teacher training at Gramercy Pilates NYC. “They’re suffering later on.”
Watch: Got Text Neck? Try Pilates
Havoc for the body
The problem, as she sees it, is that anything that changes the curve of the neck can create havoc for the rest of the body.
“Instead of the cervical spine going inward, the curve can be a little bit different, and it causes nerve pain and herniation and different muscle tension headaches, different things that really can reduce quality of life,” she said.
Fielding created the class after noticing more and more of her clients coming in with forward head posture, wherein the head and neck tended to be stretched forward instead of properly aligned over the spine.
The class uses different exercises to release tension in the neck, shoulders and upper body, while strengthening back and neck muscles.
“It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s because those muscles a lot times are so weak from being overstretched and being in this other position,” Fielding said.
Start with breathing
The class works with the whole body, incorporating chin tucks, neck stretches and upper and lower body strengthening exercises. Breathing and posture awareness are essential components.
Fielding recommends aiming for a “360-degree expansion” of your ribcage, getting your breath to move up and down your torso, back, middle and front, by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
“The easiest thing that someone can do is to start to breathe, to try to release some of those muscles that are in our back and in our neck,” she said.
Outside of the Pilates studio, there are everyday fixes. Chin tucks (tucking your chin down and back to make a double chin) are one. The action helps bring your neck in alignment with your spine. Fielding recommends doing 10 chin tucks at a time, holding each for 5 seconds.
Then there’s the not-so-cool solution: Holding your phone at eye level like an actor onstage giving Julius Caesar’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech.
“I have a feeling that more and more people are going to be doing this, because we have to save our spine, right?” she said.
‘I have a neck now’
Students report positive results.
“I feel a big difference,” said Yasmin Venable. “I used to carry a lot of tension, especially in my upper arms and have like this, ugh feeling and now I feel like, I have a neck now.”
Skeptics may have their doubts, but texting isn’t going away anytime soon. Not to mention video games, laptops and computers, where text neck positions are often assumed.
With some corrective action, the aches and pains associated with these digital-age habits no longer have to be a pain in the neck.