“Text Neck” creating chronic neck pain


Text Neck, the new postural condition

The one thing that has become clear over the years as technology progresses, so do the new conditions related to the use of the new technology.  In the early 2000’s, physical therapy and chiropractors started seeing an increase in neck pain related to pinching the ever “smaller” cell phones between peoples neck and shoulders.  This lead to the development in hands free devices and functions on the cell phones.  By 2005 the first smartphones started to arrive on the market and texting began to become the normal form of quick communication vs. the phone call.  This lead to “Blackberry Thumb”, due to the original keyboards on the smartphones needing to be depressed to enter the text and thumbs were the primary digits for keying. This lead to the development of touch screen and auto text to decrease keying and force needed to key.

Now, the new condition is called “Text Neck”, which is related to the use of any smart phone or tablet.  This condition comes from the standard posture with the device being held low and your neck being bent forward to interact with the device.  This constant forward head posture puts significant stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints in the neck leading to chronic neck pain. This type of pain was usually more specific to people who worked in specific industries, like, welders and dentists.

This condition is affecting a wide range of people and starting at much earlier ages. Dr. Brad Davis, a physiatrist, or rehabilitation physician, with Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery Center in Asheville, said he sees patients every day with chronic neck pain – and more of them are young.  “From what I gather,” he said, “on average folks are spending a couple of hours a day (on these devices), which translates to hundreds of hours on an annual basis of not having the correct cervical spine and head posture.” “Over time with this repetitive stress of long durations, you end up with more of a chronic neck condition,” he said. “And once an individual starts feeling the effects of chronic pain, they learn to change their posture.”  And, Van Pelt said, the full impact this behavior has on children is not yet known.  “The worrisome part of this is that younger and younger people and people with immature spines are using these devices and over prolonged periods this may result in the spine not growing to a normal curvature,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll find out over the next 10 years the effects of it.” (Greenville Online, Smartphone use causing painful “text neck”)

So what can you do?

The best thing you can do is prevention.  Eliminating some of the poor texting habits are the keys to reducing this poor posture and neck pain.

  • Take breaks from you smart phone or tablet – This is very straight forward.  The body is amazing and can tolerate poor postures for short periods of time, but it needs time to recover. Taking a break from your device every 20 minutes will give your body a chance to recover
  • Stretch your neck during your break – The tension built up in your neck needs to be alleviated and to encourage good blood flow to the joint and tissues.  Use this neck stretch to address your forward head posture.
  • Use the voice to text function – Many of the devices have a voice to text function, use it when you can to avoid prolonged forward head posture.
  • Put the device away – We often feel the need to respond to everything immediately, but often it can wait.  When at work put the device in your desk, not on it.  Turn it to silent.
  • Teach your children good device habits – Texting was developed as a quick way to communicate when a telephone conversation wasn’t possible or unnecessary.  Call the person or talk to the person face to face, when you know the conversation is going to be longer than a few sentences. First the conversation could be quicker and secondly less painful on the neck!

It is important to look at all possible habits that might be causing your neck pain and many of us are guilty of encouraging “text neck”.  Changing your habits, along with proper treatment of your neck pain , can help you avoid chronic neck pain issues.