Text Neck – Yes, It’s Come to That

I have seen a lot of things that could injure one’s neck. But I never dreamed that “over texting” would be added to the list.

However, a recent study indicates that 79% of the US population have their cell phones with them all the time, with only two hours of their waking day without the cell phone in their hand. That can lead to a lot of looking down over the course of weeks, months, years and ultimately a lifetime.

Ideally, the head- which weighs about the same as a bowling ball- should be back directly over the shoulders and upper back. If this is the case the neck, shoulders and upper back can comfortably carry the weight of our skull. However, if the head is carried in a forward posture, as when we are looking down at our cell phones, it causes stress and strain to our upper back, shoulders and neck.

I personally have asked my patients how many texts they send and receive in a day. I was stunned to hear numerous times that many, especially teenage girls, may approach one hundred! Certainly, that amount of forward head posture can lead to chronic postural positions that could lead to the, infamous, text neck.

Symptoms of text neck include upper back pain ranging from chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back in muscle spasms. Tension across the shoulders is another common finding. Of course, tension headaches in the back of the skull, temples, forehead, and behind the eyes commonly occur from neck problems. Migraine headaches are also a sequela of matters of the neck.

The best solution to avoid text neck is to improve upper body posture. If one were looking from the side, regarding posture, the opening of the ear should be on the same vertical line as the middle of the shoulder. Most people have a posture with the ear opening being forward of the vertical line. We tend to get tight in muscles of the front of the neck and chest and weak in muscles in the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades. It is wise to gently stretch the small muscles in the front of the neck by gently extending the head backwards a number of times and to stretch the pectoral muscles on each side by doing stretches that one commonly sees swimmers using.

Of course, spending less time texting and using handheld and computer devices should be encouraged. If one is using mobile devices and computers periodic rest breaks involving standing and walking are essential.

Text neck appears to be with us in the foreseeable future. Hopefully, with the above advice, you can avoid being included in the text neck statistics.