Text neck: Signs, Symptoms and What You Can Do

Written By Sara Fatima, PTA

Many of us are taking precautions and limiting ourselves from going to work, school, or even grocery stores due to COVID 19. Because of these strict restrictions, we are stuck at home sitting for a prolonged period with our head poking forward, upper back hunched, and shoulders rolled forward over a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. According to this article in The Washington Post, “Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year.” This posture has become so prevalent that Dean Fishman, a US chiropractor, has named it “text neck syndrome” to make it a separate condition.

What is “Text Neck Syndrome”?

Text neck syndrome refers to a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by having your head in a forward position for extended period. The forward pending posture affects the curvature of the cervical spine, the neck and shoulder muscles, and supporting ligaments. According to a review from EC Orthopaedics, “text neck directly affects the spine while flexing the head forward at varying degrees: when the head tilts forward 15 degrees, the force on the neck surge to 27 pounds, at 30 degrees 40 pounds, at 45 degrees 49 pounds and at 60 degrees 60 pounds.” To give you an idea of how much extra stress is going through your neck, imagine carrying an 8 year old around your neck for two to four hours.

Signs and Symptoms of Text Neck

Some signs and symptoms of text neck syndrome include:

  • Sharp or Nagging pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Stiffness/tightness in shoulders and neck leading to decreased range of motion
  • Intermittent or constant headaches
  • Nerve pain with tingling and numbness in the upper limbs
  • Eye pain

Exercises for Text Neck Syndrome

Listed below are some exercises that could prevent text neck syndrome. These exercises should not increase pain. If your pain increases, then stop and contact your healthcare provider or physical therapist.

1. Chin tuck: Start in a upright sitting position, gently tuck your chin as if you are making a double chin. Make sure your nose and chin are facing forward, not downward. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Repeat for 30 repetitions.

2. Scapular Retraction: Start in a upright sitting position. Tighten the muscles between your shoulder blades and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat 30 times.

3. Pectoralis Stretch: Place one hand onto a door frame, up to your shoulder level. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch along your chest. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.

4. Foam Rolling Series: for upper back mobility and anterior shoulder mobility.

Tips to prevent Text Neck Syndrome

  • Hold your mobile device up to eye level.
  • Slight tuck your chin and roll shoulder blades backwards.
  • Take breaks from your mobile device every 15 minutes.
  • Set reminders to shift positions.
  • For kids, rest the device on a table instead of in the hands or on the floor.

With proper positioning, education, and awareness, one should be able to minimize text neck syndrome from developing.

How can physical therapy help?

At Clarity Physical Therapy, we specialize in creating individualized rehabilitation programs focused on improving posture and restoring normal muscle function. Treatment plans include a combination of manual therapy and corrective exercises to decrease forces on the spine, strengthen muscles that are inhibited, and lengthen muscles that are tight and short. The Physical Therapists at Clarity can help you regain control of your posture and get rid of pain for good. With one-on-one treatment sessions, you will receive personalized attention that will help you see results faster and decrease overall treatment time. Call to schedule an appointment, no prescription required. See what insurances Clarity takes by clicking here.

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