Use these tips to prevent your neck pain caused by text neck
The term ‘Text Neck’ describes a repetitive strain injury to the neck which occurs when a person looks down at their mobile device for a prolonged period of time. With the increased use of mobile phones and computers we have seen an increased rate in the presentation of neck and shoulder pains. Is this coincidence or is there a cause and effect relationship?
S.Lee (2015) showed that when using a mobile phone most users maintain a flexed neck measurement somewhere between 35-45 degrees. It was also shown that this angle increases during texting when compared to other tasks. It was also higher in seated positions when compared to standing ones. This is important because this increases the load on the neck and the musculature that supports it.
Hansraj, the chief of Spinal Surgery at New York Spine Surgery, published a study in 2014 assessing the incremental differences of force acting on the neck as the head is tilted forwards into worsening postures. The study showed a dramatic increase in the force the neck experienced as a result of postural changes (see figure below). For instance, when we look down to text, our neck may be experiencing up to six times the load of normal! Imagine trying to lift a weight that is six times what you normally lift and do that for prolonged periods of time. Do you think you would get sore, tight and achy?
The most common symptoms of Text Neck are pain and soreness. As expected it was shown in a 2011 study by Berolo, that with the increased use of smart phones, the severity of pain and soreness increased. Other studies show that poor postures, such as a forward head, and slouched or rounded shoulder postures may be adopted. Due to the altered load that occurs in these postures, others complications that may arise from Text Neck. These include:
- Altering of the spinal curvature (flattening with the loss of lordosis)
- Onset of early osteoarthritis and spinal degeneration
- Disc compression and bulging
- Nerve compression
tips to prevent text neck pain
So what are some things you can do to help prevent the progression of Text Neck and improve your symptoms?
Don’t spend too long in one continuous session of phone use and attempt to reduce the amount of total time you spend on your phone.
Improve posture during mobile use
Hold your phone higher, as close to eye level as possible. For general posture you should think about keeping you back straight and tall, shoulders pulled back and chin slightly tucked in. If you are having trouble reading the screen increase the size of the text.
If seated for long periods throughout the day, ensuring you spend time getting your body moving. Do so through a wide range of movements. Continually change your posture throughout the day by alternating between sitting and standing positions to reduce fatigue.
Make sure you perform a series of neck, mid back and chest stretches to maintain your mobility. See my neck and shoulder exercises section in my post about neck pain in cyclists. Another option if you find it difficult to motivate yourself is to join an exercise group. Yoga can be a great idea for some both through mobility and posture awareness improvements, as well as the psychological benefits of mindfulness and decreasing stress. I really like Tidal Flow Yoga (click to check them out).
Doing movements to strengthen the muscles that support your posture is very important. See myneck and shoulder exercises section in my post about neck pain in cyclists. Exercises should be used to also brea up periods of prolonged postures.
If you have neck pain and would like to learn please contact me here.
- Sojeong Lee, H. K. Head flexion angle while using a smartphone. Journal of Ergonomics, 2015, 58(2), 220-226.
- Berolo S, Wells RP, Amick BC 3rd: Musculoskeletal symptoms among mobile hand-held device users and their relationship to device use: a preliminary study in a Canadian university population. Appl Ergon, 2011, 42: 371–378.
- Janwantanakul P, Sitthipornvorakul E, Paksaichol A: Risk factors for the onset of nonspecific low back pain in office workers: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies. J Manipulative Physio Ther, 2012, 35: 568–577.
- Bonney RA, Corlett EN: Head posture and loading of the cervical spine. Appl Ergon, 2002, 33: 415–417.
- Hansaraj, K. Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgical Technology International, 2014, (9), 227.