Text neck is widely acknowledged as a new and growing public health epidemic. With smartphone, computer, and tablet use continuing to increase, the impact of Text Neck is affecting the neck, shoulders, mid back, arms and hands. On average, the human head weighs 10-12lbs. With your neck upright (Hansraj 2014 study) the effects of various tilts will transfer different weight to the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the neck. As the head tilts forward to view a screen, the perceived weight of the head is increased. This applies more tension and pressure on the structures of the neck, shoulder, and mid back. The increase of weight can lead to pain or discomfort, as well as a potential decrease in respiratory function. If these postures are maintained on a regular basis for several hours, they can lead to an overuse injury.

Symptoms of text neck

  • Aching, tightness, or sharp pain in the neck, upper back, or shoulder
  • Muscle spasms in the neck, upper back, or shoulders
    • These pain and muscle spasms often get worse throughout the day
  • Headaches on their own, or accompanied by neck aching or tightness
  • Forward head posture
  • In more severe cases, shooting or radiating pain can be felt down the arms
 

Treatment of Text Neck

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should have yourself assessed by a spinal care professional. Text neck can be treated and prevented with care from a licensed chiropractor or physiotherapist. Treatment will aim to help reduce tension and stiffness in the neck and upper back area. Treatment can decrease the pain being felt, and help make changes to prevent further pain and suffering. Effective treatment for Text Neck can include:
  • Joint mobilizations
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Postural education
  • Exercise and stretching prescription
  • Postural assistance devices or taping
  • And others…

How do you prevent Text Neck?

If you do not currently have neck pain or discomfort, the three steps below can help you prevent or decrease your chances of developing Text Neck:
  1. Chin tucks: when you look down constantly at a screen the emphasis shifts away from these muscles which should be working, and gets put on other muscles that are not meant to hold up the weight of the head. This exercise aims to help correct the postures contributing to text neck. For video instructions please click here.
  2. Bring the device up: instead of holding the device low so that you have to look down at it, bring the device to eye level and hold it out in front of you. This will help you to maintain a more neutral neck, and therefore decrease the load on your neck.
  3. Put the phone down: the most important things you can do is to take breaks from electronic devices throughout the day

Dr Natasha Jakelski

Doctor of Chiropractic

DC, B.Sc. (Kin), Dip Acupuncture HeadWay Clinic 907 Lorne St., Sudbury, ON P3C4R6 Phone: (705) 670-2000
References:  
  1. Jung, S. I., Lee, N. K., Kang, K. W., Kim, K., & Do, Y. L. (2016). The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function. Journal of physical therapy science28(1), 186-189.
  2. Hansraj, K. K. (2014). Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol Int25(25), 277-9
  3. https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/exercise/neck-pain-prevention-chin-tuck-exercise-video
  4. Berolo, S., Wells, R. P., & Amick, B. C. (2011). Musculoskeletal symptoms among mobile hand-held device users and their relationship to device use: a preliminary study in a Canadian university population. Applied Ergonomics42(2), 371-378.
  5. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/modern-spine-ailment-text-neck