Text Neck Syndrome is the term used for neck pain caused by repeated stress associated with constantly looking down at a smartphone, laptop or other mobile device. More than 75% of Americans own a mobile device and neck pain from use of these devices has been shown to be as high as 60% in certain populations. The human head weighs between 10 to 13 pounds and, while the neck and spine are designed to support that weight, ergonomic studies have shown that when the neck is flexed forward to 45 degrees, as with looking down at a device, the force exerted reaches nearly 50 pounds (in the upright position, there is about 10 pounds of force).
The prolonged, repetitive postural changes of looking down at a device places stress on the neck and back, and ultimately affects the normal spinal curvatures as well as supporting muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and even bones. Stress on these structures can lead to disc compression and herniation, arthritis, spinal malalignment and degeneration and even nerve damage. Pain can be felt in the neck, back, shoulders, as well as the upper and lower arms.
Symptoms of text neck include:
- Headache: Sub-occipital muscle tightness can lead to tension type headaches
- Stiff neck: Soreness and difficulty moving the neck can be present after long usages
- General Pain: Can be localized to one spot or spread over an area, usually lower part of the neck
- Radiating pain: Pain often starts in one place but travels to another, particularly the shoulders and arms
- Muscular weakness: Shoulder muscles and shoulder external rotators are often weak
What can you do to prevent or reverse the effects of text neck?
Becoming aware of proper body mechanics and how you use the various parts of your body has a direct affect on how well those parts will work and for how long. Here are some simple things you can do to prevent text neck and save yourself a trip to see an orthopedist.
- Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks
- Hold your phone at eye level or look down with your eyes and not your head
- Avoid high repetitions of movements such as prolonged typing or swiping
- Avoid holding large or heavy devices in one hand for long duration
- Perform neck and shoulder rolls throughout the day to release tension caused by bending down to stare at the screen
- Practice good posture; avoid slouching
Understanding the problem is the best way to avoid Text Neck Syndrome. Technology use is unavoidable for most of us; with this in mind, basic range of motion and stretching exercises should be performed routinely. But not all exercises work for everyone so consulting a physician for further guidance can be beneficial especially if you’ve noted any symptoms starting to occur. To learn more about the best options for you or to schedule an appointment with one of our neck and spine specialists, call us at 800.698.1280.