How Does Text Neck Cause Pain?
Text neck describes a repetitive stress injury or overuse syndrome in the neck, caused by prolonged use of mobile devices with the head bent downward and not moving. Also called tech neck, text neck is commonly associated with texting, but it can be related to many activities performed on phones and tablets while looking downward, such as surfing the web, playing games, or doing work.
Head’s Weight Magnified
The weight of the head is a key factor for text neck pain. The neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments are meant to support the head’s weight—10 to 12 pounds—in a neutral position balanced atop the cervical spine. When texting on a phone, it is common to bend the head forward and look down at a 45- or 60-degree angle, which places about 50 to 60 pounds of force on the neck.1 The neck is not able to withstand this amount of pressure over a prolonged period.
The Course of Text Neck
Text neck typically begins as a relatively mild ache in the neck or upper back. It could also present with sharp pain or stiffness in the neck. When text neck is suspected of causing pain, it is typically treated with a combination of:
- Limiting phone/tablet use to necessary tasks
- Using better posture by holding devices up closer to eye level
- Performing exercises and stretches that specifically target the neck, chest, and upper back
If not addressed, the continued forward head posture and hunched shoulders may worsen over time, which could lead to even more pain and reduced mobility in the neck, upper back, and shoulders.
In some cases, the excessive forward head posture may exacerbate or accelerate degenerative conditions in the cervical spine, such as cervical degenerative disc disease and/or cervical osteoarthritis.
Unique Risks of Smartphones and Tablets to Stress the Neck
Here are some reasons why smartphone and tablet use may pose some unique risks to stress the spine:
- Severe neck angle to view the screen. Compared to TVs and personal computers, smartphone and tablet screens are more commonly viewed while flat on a table or lap, which means the screen angle is more severe. As such, the neck and head are typically bent further forward to view smartphones than other screens.
Impact on Growing Spines Still Being Studied
There is special concern about the potential health impact on teenagers—among the most frequent text message users—whose spines are still developing. Many doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals have reported seeing an increase in neck pain and poor posture among teenage patients due to frequent texting and mobile device use, but thus far the evidence is mostly anecdotal.
3 Ways to Improve Forward Head Posture
1. Start each morning with chin tucks and chest stretches
A chin tuck exercise is quick and easy to do and it helps strengthen your upper thoracic extensors, the muscles that align your head over your shoulders.
- Stand with your upper back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Face forward, tuck your chin down, and pull your head back until it meets the wall.
- Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before resting, and repeat 10 times.
Tight chest muscles can contribute to your head jutting forward. By stretching out your pectoralis major and minor, your shoulders and head may have an easier time staying pulled back and in good posture.
- Face a corner of a room or stand in a doorway. Place your forearms against each wall (or each door jamb) with your elbows slightly below shoulder level.
- Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest under your collarbone.
- Hold for up to a minute.
Work these stretches into your morning routine. Two minutes at the beginning of each day is a simple investment that can pay big dividends for your posture. Stop immediately if any of these movements cause pain.
2. Set up your workspace ergonomically
It’s easy to hunch your head forward when you spend most of the day sitting in a chair and staring at a screen. Arrange your workstation so that it encourages you to keep your head aligned over your shoulders.
- Raise your computer monitor so your eyes hit the top third of the screen when you look straight ahead.
- Position your mouse and keyboard so when you use them your forearms are parallel to the floor and your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees.
- Buy an office chair with a headrest so you can keep the back of your head flush against the chair while working.
If you still find yourself slouching your neck forward, set a reminder on your phone that alerts you several times a day to check your posture.
3. Sleep on a contoured cervical pillow
A cervical pillow, sometimes called an orthopaedic pillow, is distinctively shaped with the center of the pillow curved inward to better support the natural curves of the head and cervical spine. The goal of the design is to keep your neck neutral rather than flexed forward. You can achieve a similar effect by sleeping on your back with a rolled towel under your neck instead of a pillow.
You won’t correct forward head posture overnight. Commit to these tips and see if you notice an improvement over the weeks and months ahead. If your forward head posture is severe or causes pain, consult a Chiropractor who can provide more guidance and options to help improve posture.
The above are some of the examples of neck pillows and support props for people who want to correct their night posture and get a good night sleep.
Call now for an Chiropractic Treatment and advice regarding neck tension, better posture and headaches relief.
Chris Youakim (Wellness Chiropractor)
Chiroflexion | Health in Motion
1/12 Campbell Crescent | TERRIGAL 2260
NSW | CENTRAL COAST
PH: 0411 963 965