Heads up! How to Prevent Pain in Your “Text Neck”

Girl Typing on Mobile Phone

How often do you check your cell phone, your email, or text someone?

It’s a habit most of us do numerous times a day, yet Quad City spine physicians are concerned this seemingly innocuous behavior is wreaking havoc on our necks and spinal columns.

A recent study found Americans spend an average of 4.7 hours a day on their cell phones, almost a third of their waking hours.

Those numbers add up to what can literally be a real pain in the neck!

It’s a modern malady with a new term called, “text neck.”

Dr. Scott Collins, ORA Orthopedics

Dr. R. Scott Collins, ORA Orthopedics
Dr. R. Scott Collins, ORA Orthopedics

“Text neck describes the pain, inflammation, and pressure exerted upon your neck and spine, caused from looking down at electronic and wireless devices,” explains  ORA Orthopedics’ Spine Surgeon, Dr. Scott Collins.

“Depending on the angle at which you bend your neck, you are actually putting a significant amount of pressure on your cervical spine.”

Text neck is a repetitive overuse injury, reportedly widespread among young people and teenagers who are constantly hunched and bending over to use their wireless mobile devices, like cell phones and tablets.

Yet, it can affect anyone who spends long periods of time on their tech gadgets.

“Your head weighs an average of 10 to 12 pounds,” explains Dr. Collins. “When you bend your head forward, you increase the amount of pressure on your cervical spine.”

For example, bending your head at a 15-degree angle results in about 27 pounds of pressure on your neck; at 30 degrees, 40 pounds of pressure; and at 45 degrees, 49 pounds!

If you bend your neck at 60 degrees, it’s the equivalent of carrying a 60-pound child on your shoulders all day.

Text Neck Symptoms and Remedies

Dr. Collins says constant overuse can result in a number of symptoms, including headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and eventually poor posture.

“Chronic text neck can cause nagging pain and even severe upper back and shoulder spasms,” he says.

“Stretching your neck muscles for a long period of time can affect the spine’s natural curve and your posture as well.”

Dr. Collins suggests the following tips to prevent the long-term effects of text neck:

  1. Use your eyes to look down at the device, keep your neck and spine erect.
  2. Exercise your neck and shoulders by rolling your shoulders backward.
  3. Tilt your head from side to side as you try to touch your ears to your shoulders.
  4. Put your phone away, and reduce the temptation to constantly check it.
  5. Be aware of staying in the same position for long periods of time while checking emails or gaming.

“It’s time for us to pay more attention to screen time, especially among young people,” advises Dr. Collins.

“Slouching leads to poor posture and potential neck injuries later on, including herniated or slipped disks, pinched nerves, and other injuries affecting the back and spine.”

Heads up, everyone!