What is Text Neck? (also called Tech Neck or Phone Neck)
Text neck is a term for the posture formed due to a person leaning forward (head forward, shoulders rounded, back slumped) while texting or reading on a phone – often for extended periods. It has been reported that this posture can cause stress injuries. It can lead to neck and shoulder pains, headaches and thoracic hyperkyphosis.
Concern is growing as the mobile user population grows and especially the increase in use by children from a young age.
The global smartphone user base is expected to grow by 3.5 billion in 2020.
India was home to 374.8 million smartphone owners in 2020. The average time spent by young adults is 3-4 hours per day.
According to recent statistics, 87% (aged 14-18) of American teenagers and 79% (aged 12-15) in the UK have smartphones.
Of adults aged between 18 and 34 years, 92% Australians reported owning a smartphone and 95% in the USA.
Symptons of Text Neck
Text Neck presents as neck stiffness, pain and soreness or difficulty moving the neck following long-term mobile phone usage.
The pain can either be concentrated in one area or spread over a larger area. It can be described as dull, aching or even sharp and stabbing pain.
Radiating pain can occur when pain radiates into the arms and shoulders.
Muscular weakness: The shoulder muscles, including trapezius and rhomboids, are frequently weak.
Tension headaches can be caused by sub-occipital muscle tightness.
Symptoms may often also include:
- Flattening of the thoracic spine
- The early onset of arthritis
- Spinal degeneration
- Compression of discs
- Muscle weakness
- Lung capacity loss
The spine is directly affected by bending the neck forward to use a mobile device.
Tilting the head forward to a 15° angle , creates a force of 27 lb on the neck.
It increases to 40 lb at 30°, 49 lb at 45° and 60 lbs at 60°.
According to Dr Ian Nothling, people spend about five hours a day staring at their smartphones. This can cause serious neck pain due to text neck. According to Harvard Medical Health, 7/10 people will feel neck pain at one time or another.
What does text neck do to your body? It tightens and compresses the muscles, tendons and ligament structures at the front of the neck while also lengthening the muscles, ligaments and tendon structures behind the neck. The human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. For every inch your head is tilted inward, your neck must carry twice as much weight. This extra strain accumulates the damage done over time.
However, it seems impossible to completely abandon our mobile devices. We can instead make a point of exercising regularly and develop good habits that will help us avoid the pains and aches associated with text neck.
How to prevent text neck – Prevention is the best strategy
1. Modify how you hold the phone
Do not hold a static position for too long. Bring the screen up to your eyes so that you don’t slouch forward. Keep your spine neutral so your ears are in line with your shoulders. This will prevent you from staying in a forward-head position for long periods of time. Do not hold heavy or large devices for prolonged period of time.
2. Phone breaks are a good idea
Even if you only take a few minutes each hour, frequent breaks can be helpful. Set a timer reminder on your phone or device to remind you to take the breaks. Most importantly, consciously avoid looking down at a screen as this will lead to you pushing you head and neck forward.
3. The Text Neck App
The Text Neck Android app offers instant feedback about your posture. It is indicated by a red or green light. You can also set the app to vibrate or sound a reminder when you start tilting your head and neck forward. See the YouTube video below for details.
4. See a professional
If you are experiencing prolonged pain, see a chiropractor to get a neck adjustment. Dr Ian Nothling at Scofield Chiropractic Clinic will help relieve the pain and correct any structural problems that your text neck has developed over time.
The treatment of the Text Neck stress injury is very successful with rehabilitation. The rehabilitation program can consist of a 2-week program that starts with soft tissue mobilization and Grade 1 and Level 2 joint mobilization. It then progresses to active and passive stretching and strengthening of the muscles, as well as posture retraining and home exercises.
Strengthening and stretching muscles can help relieve neck pain.
5. Ten minutes of yoga
Yoga is one of the best activities to prevent neck and back pain. It improves movement patterns and body awareness and includes breath exercise. A muscular imbalance such as tight muscles or tight rhomboids can cause neck pain. The following exercises, as well as 10 minutes of daily yoga can help make a big difference.
Six Exercises You Can Use To Counteract Text Neck
With the assistance of chiropractors, we have compiled a list of the most effective equipment-free exercises and stretches you can use. These exercises can be incorporated into your daily routine and should be repeated three times a day for best results.
1. Exaggerated Nod
The exaggerated nod counteracts the forward and downward head position typical of text neck by drawing your shoulders backward and downward which improves mobility of the neck.
- You can either stand or sit with your shoulders relaxed and your mouth closed. Your teeth should barely touching while you look up at the roof.
- Now, relax your jaw. Open your mouth. Try to bring your head back about two inches (Position 1).
- Now, keep your head straight and bring your jaws together as you close your mouth (Position 2). The front of your neck should be feeling stretched.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Downward-Facing Dog can be used to open the anterior chest and shoulders which tend to be tight and rounded from text neck habits. The downward facing dog pose requires upper-body strength. If you lack the shoulder strength to do this, you probably compensate by raising your shoulders up towards your ears. If so, pull your shoulders down.
Start on all fours. Arch your back lifting your hips as high as possible while keeping your feet flat on the floor.Here’s how to do it
- Keep your head down with your neck straight so that you are looking at your knees.
- Hold the pose for 3 deep breaths and then relax.
Cat-Cow movements should be driven by your core and pelvis. As you inhale, you arch your back towards the ceiling and drop your head. When you exhale, you drop and hollow your back while you raise your head and look forward. This motion sequence improves spinal awareness and reduces the chances of poor posture.
Start on all fours with your toes, knees and hands on the ground. Your arms should be straight and your shoulders should be directly above your wrists. Focus your eyes just ahead of your wrists. Heels pointing at the ceiling.Here’s how to do it.
- For the cat phase, while keeping your legs and arms still, arch your back towards the ceiling using your stomach muscles while you exhale and drop your head and tuck it to your chest.
- Transition to the cat phase by raising your head to look straight ahead or upwards as you inhale while you drop and hollow your back keeping your arms straight and not moving your legs or feet.
- Repeat each cycle being careful not to place any stress on the head or neck.
Padahastasana is a stretching exercise for the neck and hamstrings. This counters text neck and loosens the hips that get tight from sitting all day.
Start by removing your shoes. Place your feet about hip distance apart. Next, extend your arms outwards and let your hands touch the ground. If you find it difficult to bend forward, don’t strain your arms.Here’s how to do it.
- To slip your hands underneath your feet, turn your palms up and bend your knees. Your toes should reach into the wrist creases.
- Relax your head and press the balls of your feet into the palms of your hands.
- Take three deep, slow breaths and stand up.
5. Bow Pose
Bow pose can help correct slouched shoulders. It opens the shoulders from the front and strengthens them from behind.
Lie on your stomach with your hands to your side.Here’s how to do it.
- Bend your knees and bring your ankles up to your buttocks. Reach back with your arms and grab your ankles.
- While inhaling, lift your knees and torso up at the same time so that only your hips are in contact with the floor.
- Stretch your shoulders back and your head forward like a tortoise as you look up.
- Hold this position for 10 breaths and exhale as you relax and let go of your ankles.
6. Chin Tuck
The chin tuck can be done at any time, whether you are at work or at home. This simple stretch can increase your spinal awareness and strengthen the neck muscles. It will also help to pull your head back into alignment.
1. Sit up straight in a chair with your chin parallel to the floor. Keeping your head straight without tilting it, gently draw your head back to create a double chin. The back of your neck should feel stretched.Here’s the method:
2. Now, extend your neck upward as though a string is pulling your head up like a puppet string. Push the bottom of your skull upwords as far as you can using your neck muscles. Now, for the duration of 3 deep breaths, hold this position while keeping your jaw relaxed.
3. Relax and allow your jaw to move forward. Repeat the exercise.