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South Africa’s Next Pain In The Neck Epidemic


Aglet - 10th Jun 2015 - 0 comments

Fact: there are 37.2 million adults in South Africa and 97% of them have a cell phone. It’s not surprising that texting is a popular form of communication for us as a nation, which contributes to global statistics of more than one billion text messages sent every month.

Fact: there are 37.2 million adults in South Africa and 97% of them have a cell phone. It’s not surprising that texting is a popular form of communication for us as a nation, which contributes to global statistics of more than one billion text messages sent every month. Although today’s digital age comes with many benefits and different ways of working, it also brings a new set of health issues. An example of this is ‘Text Neck’, a relatively recent concern which affects millions of people across the globe and is now making its way to South Africa shores as technology becomes more readily available.

With 6 billion people in the world and more than 4 billion of them using mobile phones, today’s phone user now spends four hours a day reading mails, sending texts and checking social media sites. This equates to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines. Since so much of our time is spent using electronic devices at work, Text Neck is gaining fast attention in the workplace as employers seek to identify wellbeing options and solutions to help staff.

“Text neck is the result of the axial skeleton and associated structures (muscle, ligaments, nerves, fascia etc) being exposed to extended period of abnormal and undue mechanical and positional stress caused by electronic devices used in ergonomically compromising positions”, comments Jonathan Blake, a renowned Johannesburg physio who has seen the condition far too many times at his Sandton practice.

“Personally I feel that the global term ‘Text Neck’ is too categorical – it implies that the postural problems caused by poor ergonomics are related to texting only. A more encompassing term is clearly needed so that these postural problems can be related to all forms of electronic communication; from screens, to keyboards, to notebooks, laptops and tablets etc”.

Blake continues to say that frequent Text Neck positions cause changes to the cervical spine, supporting ligaments, tendons, and musculature, and bony segments, commonly causing postural change. It has also been linked to headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease. What’s worse is that if left untreated, the condition can result in permanent damage including: flattening of the spinal curve, onset of early arthritis, spinal degeneration, loss of lung volume capacity and gastrointestinal problems.

Although Text Neck is fairly new to South African shores and most statistics are extrapolated from overseas, it’s a health condition which the sales team at Inspiration Office are familiar with. The national showroom which stocks a range of international and local ergonomic office furniture brands is inundated with queries and concerns about how to prevent and address this increasing workplace issue.

Managing Director for Inspiration Office, Richard Andrews, has the following tips to alleviate and avoid Text Neck:

  • 1. The obvious and first step would be to take cognisance of your posture, and if you can’t, a range of gadgets have been introduced to help workers identify when they are slouching;
  • 2. Try to limit your time spent in compromising positions, take a break and escape lengthy periods of being deskbound;
  • 3. Instead of bending your neck, try looking down at your device with only your eyes;
  • 4. Simple exercises such as standing in a doorway with your arms extended and pushing your chest forward to strengthen “the muscles of good posture” help alleviate pain;
  • 5. Find an office chair that is built to support your work. By investing in an ergonomically designed chair you can provide support to both the back and neck which provides comfort during long workdays. Look for features like adjustable armrests that let you move around and change positions throughout the day. South African office furniture manufacturer, AngelShack, has recently introduced the Perfect Operating Position (POP) Chair to the local market. It offers nine ergonomic positions and would be a perfect example of locally made furniture which counteracts Text Neck.

Andrews continues by saying that as mobile devices become more widespread at work, people are beginning to work in different ways and seating postures – postures that were not included in office furniture design until recent, and that mostly likely the chairs we currently sit on had never seen or heard of this workplace concern. Today’s high quality ergonomic office chairs have adjustable arms which cater to your posture and technology needs. Instead of placing your iPad or iPhone on your lap, the chair (and its arms) will move accordingly to your posture. Often, office furniture falls at the bottom of the importance list, but a nice, supportive task chair and ergonomic work stations are investments that can pay dividends in employee health and comfort