April 17, 2017—Text neck. Yes, that’s now a thing. As you can probably infer, it’s a neck strain related largely to looking down at a mobile device multiple times per day. And according to chiropractors and other medical professionals, text neck is causing some very real pain.
“A recent study stated that 79 percent of the US population have their cell phones with them all the time with only two hours of their waking day without their cell phone in hand,” said Michael Gottfried, DC, president of Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island and a chiropractic physician at Aquidneck Chiropractic in Middletown, Rhode Island. “That’s a lot of looking down over the course of a day, week, month and year, which will eventually catch up to you and cause wear on your neck, upper back and shoulders.”
In addition to a sore neck, symptoms of text neck can include upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms. Shoulder pain and tightness can also be other symptoms. This condition, left unchecked, can lead to more serious conditions, particularly if a cervical nerve becomes pinched. That can result in even more pain and possibly neurological symptoms radiating down your arm and into your hand or up into your head causing a headache.
So, what can you do about text neck? For starters, make a habit out of looking at your mobile devices at eye level—raising your device to read it rather than looking down. If you work at a desk with a computer and are frequently looking down at your computer screen, make a point of getting up at least once an hour to stretch. Or, you can simply make a point of checking your phone less.
If your text neck is further along, you may want to incorporate some neck stretching and strengthening exercises into your day. One stretch Gottfried recommends is for the levator scapula muscle.
The levator scapula is a muscle that often becomes tight and may be very tender where it attaches to the shoulder blade. This is an area that can be exacerbated by text neck.
This stretch can be performed while sitting or standing. Facing forward with a wall to your side, raise your arm as high as it can go, resting your hand, forearm and elbow on the wall. Turn your head away from the side that is stretching and bring the chin down, stretching the back of the neck. Next, using the hand that’s not on the wall, place fingers on top of your head and gently pull your head forward. This will increase the stretch slightly. Hold that stretch for about 30 seconds to a minute.
Repeat this stretch three to five times per day. If your text neck persists, you might want to consider seeking out medical attention.
“Companies and families spend a lot of money nowadays on ergonomics. While a chair or desk can make an incredible difference in posture, the most effective ergonomic tool we have is our mind and the ability to stop doing things that we know will cause us pain,” said Gottfried. “With a slight change in texting habits and some routine stretching and regular treatment from a chiropractor, text neck can be a thing of the past very quickly.”