Text neck / Tech neck or straight neck is a term used to describe the repeated stress to the body (especially the neck) caused by spending large amounts of time hunched over electronic devices such as a smart-phones, tablets etc. The first hand held mobile phones have only been around commercially since 1987. By 2013, 50% of adults owned a mobile phone and in 2016 the average age for a child to own a phone was 10.3, and by age 12, 50% where using social media. So the long term effects in future generations are still largely unknown.
What research tells us is that dropping your chin to your chest for a sustained period, can cause changes to the natural spinal curve of the neck, resulting in a straightening or a reverse of this curve, stressing the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles.
The average person spends between 2 to 4 hours on their phone, and a recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their mobile phones with them almost all the time—with only 2 hours of their waking day spent without their mobile phone on hand.1
A humorous look as text neck from a cartoonist point of view
What Exactly Causes Text Neck?
When standing in an upright posture, the ears are aligned with the centre of your shoulders, with the weight of the average head exerting approximately 4.5 to 5.5 kgs of force through the neck muscles. Moving the head forward by only 2 to 3cm away from this neutral position, creates a dramatic increase in the overall weight going through the neck. Approximately 6 times as much force can be generated!!! That’s approximately 30kg – the same weight as an average 8-year-old, or 6 ten-pin bowling balls!!!
This posture is not only associated with technology use. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with texting/phone use is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it more frequently and for much longer periods.
What are the symptoms associated with text neck?
Text neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness. In addition, looking down at your mobile phone too much each day can lead to:
- Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.
- Shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm or joint impingement.
- Cervical nerve impingement leading to pain and possible neurological symptoms (paraesthesia, numbness, burning) can radiate down your arm and into your hand.
- Intermittent to progressive tension headaches
- Postural fatigue
- Stiff neck with limited ability to turn head
How is text neck treated?
First, prevention is key. To help alleviate the symptoms of text neck and prevent the advancement of symptoms, you can:
- Hold your cell phone at eye level as much as possible. The same holds true for all screens—laptops and tablets should also be positioned so the screen is at eye level and you don’t have to bend your head forward or look down to view it.
- Take frequent breaks from your phone and laptop throughout the day. For example, set a timer or alarm that reminds you to get up and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes.
- If you work in an office, make sure your screen is set up so that when you look at it you are looking forward, with your head positioned squarely in line with your shoulders and spine.
- Check your sitting posture to ensure you are not placing undue stress on the upper back and neck region i.e. Your lower back should be comfortably supported by the back of your chair.
The bottom line is to avoid looking down with your head bent forward for prolonged periods throughout the day.
Text neck is conservatively managed by our chiropractors. The main aims of treatment are to reduce the tension within the neck muscles, reduce the pain and inflammation within your neck while targeting any postural concerns which may aggravate your symptoms. Pain and inflammation are strong inhibitors of normal muscle and joint movement. Pain is the main reason people seek treatment and should be the first symptom to improve!
Part of reducing muscle tension also involves restoring normal joint range of motion and strength. It is important that any exercises prescribed are tailored to your individual needs and lifestyle. A range of modalities may be utilised during treatment including:
- Joint mobilisations and adjustments
- Soft tissue techniques
- Posture correction exercises
- Neck stabilisation exercises
- Postural taping and/or bracing techniques
- Ergonomic advice
If you think we can be of assistance or you would like some advice on posture correction, please tel 0266744032 or go to our website www.tweedcoastchiropractic.com.au or book online
- Hansraj, K.K. Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol Int. 2014;25:277–279 (PMID)
- Lee, S., Kang, H., Shin, G. Head flexion angle while using a smartphone. Ergonomics. 2015;58:220–226
- Nesreen Fawzy Mahmoud,1Karima A. Hassan,1et al. The Relationship Between Forward Head Posture and Neck Pain: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2019 Dec; 12(4): 562–577.