What is Text Neck?
You may have noticed a new buzzword in health news recently: Text neck. Text neck is the term used to describe neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. The distinct posture often seen in texting is causing an overuse syndrome in avid users—and doctors are starting to see the painful results.
Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. This is especially disconcerting because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain. Given the incomplete development of the body and skeleton, children and teens are especially at risk for suffering symptoms of text neck. The fact that they may actually spend more time on these devices than adults multiples this factor even further.
What Are the Symptoms Associated with Text Neck?
Text neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness. In addition, looking down at your cell 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.
If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand.
Poor posture, like that which is seen in text neck, can lead to neck strains and sprains. Tilting the head forward, as is typically done to view and create text messages, forces the neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments to strain to hold the head up. In recent years, physicians are seeing signs of premature degeneration of the spine in patients who are decades younger than would typically be expected. This type of wear-and-tear-related damage has generally been more common in older adults or those in occupations, such as dentistry and welding, that require keeping the head bent forward for extended periods of time. There are many ways to avoid straining the neck while texting. These tips also apply to use of an iPad, Kindle, and other types of hand-held devices.
Try These Helpful Adjustments to Prevent Neck Pain While Texting
Raise the phone. Move the cell phone (and other devices) to eye level so your head doesn’t have to be tilted.
Take frequent breaks. Spend some time away from the phone. Change positions when texting—lying on one’s back is an excellent way to relieve pressure on the neck.
Stand up straight. Good posture, with the shoulders pulled back, keeps the body aligned in a neutral position.
Arch and stretch. Arch your neck and upper back backward periodically to ease muscle pain.
Stay fit. A strong, flexible back and neck are more able to handle extra stress.
Stretches to Keep the Neck Healthy
Simple neck and shoulder stretches are also important to improve blood flow and relieve tension, for example:
- Try tucking your chin down toward your neck, then slowly raise it up toward the ceiling.
- Rotate your head so that it is looking out over one shoulder, then turn slowly and rotate in the other direction.
- Rotate your shoulders in a clockwise direction while holding your arms down by the sides of your body; repeat in a counter clockwise direction.
Dr. Steven Becker lives and works in WLA (West LA) and frequently sees patients from the surrounding neighborhoods of Century City, Beverly Hills and Culver City. He specializes in the treatment of neck and lower back pain and stiffness. Please feel free to call with any questions or comments (310)277-8822.