Your screen addiction isn’t just straining your eyes and relationships; over time, your neck muscles can become stretched out and weakened while others become tight and painful as they struggle to stabilize your head in front of your body. Poor posture due to hours of mindless scrolling and tapping could be at the root of the chronic soreness and pain in your head, neck, shoulders, and back. PT Ashley Heller shares her six tips for avoiding the painful condition “Text Neck.”
BY ASHLEY HELLER, PT, MPT, RAUSCH PHYSICAL THERAPY
I constantly notice patients looking down at their phones—texting while in the waiting room, scrolling through Instagram while on the table, checking their work calendar to schedule their next appointment. These days, most everybody relies on their smartphone to stay connected to the world, and almost everyone is guilty of looking down at our phones.
While there’s no question that having technology at our fingertips is entertaining and convenient, it can also be a pain in the neck—literally. So, what can we do to prevent the pain associated with the dreaded “Text Neck?”
What is “Text Neck?”
What many people fail to realize is that repetitive or habitual postures over time related to texting, reading, and working on the computer may lead to long-term effects on the way we feel. Over time, the neck muscles become stretched out and weakened while others become tight and painful as they struggle to stabilize your head in front of your body. Poor posture over a prolonged period of time can lead to postural dysfunction resulting in chronic soreness and pain in your head, neck, shoulders, and back.
What’s the science?
- Postural syndrome occurs when prolonged stress is placed on the neck
- The average human head weighs 10-12 pounds in a neutral position
- The further bent forward your head is, the more weight your neck has to support:
- 15º = 27 pounds
- 30º = 40 pounds
- 45º = 49 pounds
- 60º = 60 pounds
Symptoms of Text Neck
- Headaches or migraines
- Pain in neck and or between the shoulder blades
- Numbness or tingling down the arm
- Shoulder pain
Long-term effects of Text Neck
Prolonged posture strains your neck muscles and cervical facet joints, resulting in soreness and inflammation in that area. It also flattens the normal curve of your neck, which can lead to:
- Nerve pain in neck or arms
- Disc degeneration or herniations
- Arthritis resulting in neck stiffness, as well as arthritis in the neck joints
Text Neck also can also cause a rounded shoulders posture, which can affect the mechanics of the shoulder and may result in shoulder impingement. You’re also more susceptible to a condition called Upper Crossed Syndrome, which occurs when the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and chest become deformed causing things like a hunched back or chronic shoulder, upper back and neck pain.
Six ways to combat and avoid Text Neck
The good news is that it’s not too late to make changes to undo any damage your screen addiction may be inflicting on your body. These tips can also apply while reading or working on your computer or tablet.
- Be aware of your posture. Pay attention to the way you are sitting or standing and how long you have been in that position.
- Listen to your body. When you feel neck pain starting, correct your posture immediately by getting out of a slumped position, then find a neutral spine posture by sitting upright while aligning your ears with your shoulders.
- Bring your phone up to eye level to reduce strain to your neck while you are texting.
- Text with your arms supported to decrease strain to the neck.
- Don’t stay in one position for too long. You now know that prolonged postures can lead to muscle strains, so get up and move around! You should also use a foam roll, tennis ball or lacrosse ball to decrease tissue tension in your upper back.
- See a physical therapist. If you’re already feeling the painful symptoms of Text Neck in your neck, upper back or shoulders, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. We’re experts in musculoskeletal dysfunction, and we can create a specific plan of care combining manual therapy and therapeutic exercises to help you find relief and change your texting habits for good.
Ashley Heller, MPT is a licensed physical therapist at Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance. She received her Masters of Physical Therapy degree at California State University, Long Beach and is passionate about working with patients with shoulder, knee and ankle injuries. With background in orthopedic-related injuries and post-operative rehabilitation, Ashley believes that the combination of manual therapy and personalized therapeutic exercise program is vital to recovery. Known as the Water Sports PT, Ashley says her goal is to help her patients better understand their injuries and the plan for their road to recovery.