Text Neck: is your phone becoming a pain in the neck?

Mobile phone use is something we chat to our patients about all the time, as more and more of us spend a good amount of our day using our portable devices. However, spending too long looking down can become a pain in the neck.

 Man texting text neck neck pain

 

The term “text neck” was originally coined by a chiropractor in Florida, and describes the repetitive stress placed on the neck from looking down at a device for too long.

 

Why this is a problem? When we are standing upright with a neutral spine (basically with our ear in line with our shoulders, shoulders in line with our hips), our head puts roughly 5kg of force through our neck. We are designed to be able to handle this with ease, right down to the orientation of the joints between the bones in our neck.

 

When our head shifts forward, like when we look down, by just 15 degrees, the force through our neck increases to 12kg. At 45 degrees, that’s 22kg!

 

Over time, this extra weight starts to take a toll on the body. The muscles in our neck and upper back take on strain, our shoulders round forward, and pain starts to occur. Headaches are common, as is ear, jaw and lower back pain, numbness and tingling down the arms, and chest tightness.

 

So, what can we do to minimise this in our day to day lives?

 

  1. Reverse the posture. At least once an hour, stand up, turn your thumbs to the back of the room, open your chest and tilt your head back. Hold this posture for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 5 times.

 

  1. Change your desk set up. Ensure your monitor is at eye level and sitting at arms-length away; your hands should be at or just below elbow height with your wrists flat, and your feet should be comfortably flat on the group with knees at hip height. Keep your keyboard directly in front of your monitor; if you use a mouse, keep your elbow close to your body.

 

  1. Minimise phone use, and when you do use your phone, try and keep the screen at eye level with your neck straight. Can’t keep the kids off the iPad? Ask them to lie on their stomach when using it: this helps place the neck in a better upright posture and minimise those damaging effects. Better yet (especially for children), take the screens away and get them to play outside!

 

  1. Stretch and strengthen your neck muscles. Depending on your presentation and symptoms, your health professional will give you specific exercises to help get you back on track.

 

  1. Get adjusted. Keeping your spine in optimal alignment and your joints freely moving is essential for a healthy neck.

 

As always, prevention is the best option. Studies show that we spend just 2 hours of our waking day not glued to our phone, so unfortunately even if you are not showing symptoms yet we can likely assume it will only be a matter of time. So, start implementing these changes today! You will thank yourself later.

 

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