By Riva Preil
The campaign against texting while driving is in full swing and (hopefully) being adhered to by the masses. However, texting while WALKING is a conversation that has largely been unaddressed…until now. On February 23, 2014, an article in the magazine section of the New York Times reported a very interesting study that assessed the musculoskeletal effects of texting while walking.
Participants were divided into three groups, a group that walked normally undistracted, a group that read a long text message while walking, and a group that texted “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” while walking. It was not surprising that the gait pattern of the texters was significantly altered and contorted compared to the non-texting groups. According to the article, the texters “began to walk with a more upright and rigid body position. Their heads froze into cocked and largely unchanging positions, eyes on the screen, chins bent toward their chests. Their necks and lower back joints had significantly less range of motion.” In addition, they walked with an overall stiffness, decreased fluidity, tightened pelvic joints, and decreased reciprocal arm swing. In other words, they were a walking hot mess of biomechanical misalignment. The primary short term effect of walking with distorted ambulation is increased fall risk. The long term effect is that it can create chronic neck and shoulder pain, tightness, and decreased range of motion. Therefore, the physical therapist in me wants to start a “No texting while walking” campaign. However the realist in me suggests to at least be more mindful of your posture and body mechanics if you insist on texting while walking. Furthermore, try to stretch your neck forward and backward in between texts, and of course try to avoid crashing into other people or objects.