Welcome to the latest 21st century phenomenon! It seems we are all so addicted to our smartphones that we use them constantly. We make phone calls while driving, surf the web, check the weather and… nonstop texting.
WHAT IS TEXT NECK?
Text neck is a relatively new term (as much as I can tell, it’s not in any dictionary yet) coined to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck. It is caused by excessive watching or texting on handheld devices over a long period of time. Sometimes it is known as “Turtle Neck” posture.
This phenomenon is especially acute in children… given their nature to use phones constantly. Recent figures show that about 87% of teenagers (ages 14 – 18) in the USA and 79% of teenagers (ages 12 – 15) in the UK own and use smartphones. Most adults in the USA (92%) and 95% in Australia own a smartphone.
The term “text neck” was coined by Dr. DL Fishman, a US chiropractor. This condition is a growing lifestyle and health condition because of the constant growth in mobile user populations all over the world. Beside neck neck pain, it can also cause shoulder pain, upper back pain, headaches and hunchback symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF TEXT NECK
Moving the head forward to use a smartphone directly affects the spine. Tilting the head forward only 15 degrees places about 27 pounds of force on the neck. This increases to 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and an incredible 60 pounds of force at 60 degrees. The damage caused by untreated text neck is similar to occupational overuse syndrome or repetitive stress/strain.
The most common symptoms of text neck are: neck pain, stiffness and soreness. Other symptoms include:
- Stiff neck: soreness and difficulty moving the neck is usually an issue after long usages.
- Pain: can be localized to one spot or spread over a large area… usually the lower part of the neck. The pain ranges from a dull ache to sharp or stabbing in extreme cases.
- Radiating pain: oftentimes, pain will travel to the shoulders and arms.
- Muscular weakness: mostly in the shoulder muscles… including the trapezius, rhomboids and shoulder external rotators.
- Headache: muscles at the base of the skull tighten and lead to a type of tension headache.
- Flattening of thoracic kyphosis: the normal curve of the lower spine begins to flatten.
- Early onset arthritis
- Spinal degeneration
- Disc compression
- Loss of lung capacity
HOW TO AVOID TEXT NECK
Prevention is the key when it comes to text neck. Try the following suggestions when using smartphones and other handheld devices:
- Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks
- Avoid maintaining one posture… keep moving while using the handheld device.
- Position the device so it reduces stress on the head/neck and the upper extremities.
- Avoid a high number of repetitions of movement such as prolonged typing or swiping.
- Do not hold large or heavy devices in one hand for long periods of time.
Rehabilitation can be very effective in treating the stress injury resulting from text neck. It can be as short as 2 – 4 weeks starting with soft tissue massage. This will usually be followed up with joint mobilization, active and passive stretches of tight muscles, muscle strengthening, posture retraining and a home exercise program.
In severe cases, pain relief is the main goal. The program includes:
- Regular neck movements: rotation and side-bending of the neck
- Stretches: trapezius and levator muscles
- Chin tuck exercises
- Ice/heat packs
OTHER INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT TEXT NECK
- In 2010, Gustafsson found differences in thumb postures between men and women. Shoulder, neck and arm muscle movements… and the motion of the thumbs… were measured – the researchers found significant differences in muscle load and thumb position when the texter was sitting instead of standing. This may lead to redesign of smartphones in the future.
- Also, women had higher muscle activity in the muscle that extends the four fingers (extensor digitorum) and the muscle that moves the thumb and wrist (abductor pollicis). Women also had greater thumb speed, greater thumb movement and fewer pauses between thumb movements (I guess women are just really into texting!). The gals also had more musculoskeletal issues including neck pain from texting – women with higher thumb movement and fewer pauses had more issues with text neck.
CLAMSHELL PHONES AND TEXT NECK
Questions remain, however, as to whether the speed and consistent movement leads to neck pain symptoms and musculoskeletal issues… or whether the condition itself simply makes the texter try to text more quickly and decrease the amount of pain they are in. All of this research could have implications for the design of new mobile devices. Perhaps the world’s first ergonomic phone will appear soon. Curiously, a study in 2007 (Chany) found that clamshell style phones produce the highest neck pain levels. However, the study was very small, so it’s not worth throwing the clamshell phone out just yet.
TEXTING – KEEP BREATHING!
A study by Lin in 2009 used biofeedback and discovered that texters had significant physiological responses that they were not aware of. Things like holding their breath when receiving texts – and showing signs of arousal or heightened stress. These “symptoms” of texting led to a higher likelihood of experiencing pain… especially neck and shoulder pain – with 83% of participants reporting neck and shoulder pain while texting. The study’s author suggests that this physiological response could be a key to reducing the amount of neck pain from texting. One must be trained to breath consistently and not “freeze” when receiving or sending texts.
GENDER SPECIFIC PHONES?
A few surveys found that women tend to text more than men… and appear to have more issues with musculoskeletal disorders associated with repetitive strain on the muscles – such as carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, shoulder pain and even fibromyalgia.
Adolescents have very high texting rates and are at high risk of developing repetitive strain injuries. They also have more muscular issues from overuse of computers, game consoles and poor posture. Teaching them early-on how to avoid these bad habits, improving design of smartphones and game consoles – and keeping them healthy and active overall may save a whole generation from developing serious chronic health issues such as neck pain.
Most importantly… try not to walk into trees, street lights or oncoming traffic while texting. Wow! What has this world come to?
CONCLUSION: Text neck has become a widespread problem. It is easy to prevent with some simple steps and very easy to treat. No one should have to suffer with it.
PS: If this information was useful and would like more help, we are offering a FREE “Chronic Neck Pain Survival Guide” Book for a limited time. It has tips, tricks and pain hacks to get fast and permanent relief. Just click here.