When my son was in his second year of college, he began complaining about severe neck pain that was giving him headaches. I suggested maybe he come home and see the family chiropractor.
“Think about it,” I said. “You are reading textbooks, doing homework, writing essays on the computer, and I bet you play video games during your down time, right? Your neck pain is probably caused from looking down all the time.”
As it turned out, one or two visits to the chiropractor helped, but the pain would come back every semester when he went back to school.
It wasn’t long after that year more and more people in the world were complaining about neck and upper back pain sending doctor’s scrambling for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis: Text Neck
“The term “text neck” was coined by a US chiropractor named Dr. DL Fishman in 2018. He used the term to describe repetitive strain injuries in the neck area that have become more commonplace with the ubiquity of certain modern technology such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.”
Across the globe today, 1 out of 5 people have chronic neck pain. In the U.S. it is the 2nd most leading cause of workers compensation claims, and it’s estimated that 5% of those with neck issues will become disabled at some point in their lives because of it.
In 2018, an article in the New York Post claimed that Millennials were turning into a hunchback generation due to their tech gadgets. And besides Millennials, kids are now becoming affected with chronic neck pain as more and more now have their own smart phones.
What's going on?
The average adult head weighs 10-12 pounds. For every 15 degrees the neck is bent looking down, your head more than doubles in weight.
The average text message puts a full 50-60 pounds of strain on your neck, back and shoulders. Do this repetitively throughout the day and you will soon find yourself becoming one of the statistics.
What happens if you ignore it?
The fact that you’re on your phone throughout the day, and/or performing other posture stressing activities such as playing games on your tablet for hours on end will soon have you wondering, “Why does my neck hurt?”
Ignore it through the years and you will probably wind up with one of these conditions:
Flattening of the Spinal Curve
Loss of Lung Volume Capacity
Onset of Early Arthritis
If you are already experiencing some of these problems, ask yourself how much time you spend looking down every day. Anymore, chances are pretty good that you’re spending way too much time staring down at your favorite device… probably farming your crops! But just for argument’s sake let’s test your pain.
Put yourself in the posture of extended screen time. Then reach back and tweak the area on your neck that hurts. Does it hurt worse when you are in that poor posture position? That’s your ‘too much screen time’ cue, and it’s time to start doing something about it.
Ways to combat Text Neck
First and foremost, I need to make clear that I am not a doctor, and the ideas below are researched from several professional websites that reported on the subject in great detail. Having experienced Text Neck myself, I have used many of the techniques detailed below with good results, so let’s get started!
1. Hold your phone up higher.
Work at reducing the amount of neck strain caused from your devices by keeping your head in a more upright position. Remember, texting with your head in a downward position puts 50-60 pounds of strain on your neck and upper back. Getting in the habit of holding your phone up higher will greatly reduce the amount of stress on your neck every day.
2. Limit screen time.
Text Neck typically occurs if you are bending over electronic devices for more than 2 hours per day. Since smart phones now offer weekly screen viewing reports, use the information to reduce your time whenever possible.
3. Take breaks and stretch frequently.
Taking time to stretch 2-3 times throughout the day can help maintain a healthy spine. Be proactive and adopt daily stretching habits before you develop pain and you will be happier for it - especially as you age. Add a daily reminder to your phone so you won’t forget. (Click the link above for stretching exercises.)
4. Start a strengthening program to prevent injury.
Being strong and flexible in the neck and back is essential for maintaining a healthy spine throughout your life. Let your strength ebb, and the affects of neck strain over the years may advance beyond repair. Keep the affects of text neck at bay for as long as you can. (Click the link above for strengthening exercises.)
5. Get a monthly massage.
Therapeutic Massage is very effective in relieving pain, and it feels good too!
Harvard Health Publishing cites, “A study published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2014 found that 60-minute therapeutic massage sessions two or three times a week for four weeks relieved chronic neck pain better than no massage or fewer or shorter massage sessions.”
If you’re a bit on the shy side, getting a professional massage maybe a daunting prospect, but don’t let that stop you from reaping the benefits of massage. Instead, use the techniques offered from the Pain Doctor and give yourself one. (Click the link for details.)
6. Be mindful of slouching, and work on improving your posture every day.
There are so many posture apps available for both android and OS devices these days. Just click the link for either Google Play or Apple, and type the word ‘posture’ to populate a sizeable list of free and paid apps.
You may also try one of the many posture-correcting braces available.
I purchased a unisex support brace from Amazon for only $17.99 that improved my posture so well that my doctor even noticed a difference. It took a bit to get used to at first, but it relieved so much pain and achiness in my upper back, neck and shoulders - I would highly recommend one.
When to see a Doctor
Serious problems won’t go away with a simple posture app. And though symptoms may improve with stretching and exercise, you could actually hurt yourself more if there is an underlying condition that needs attending.
According to Dr. David DeWitt from Spine-Health.com, “If neck pain keeps returning or is accompanied by a severe headache, fever, nausea, unintended weight loss, dizziness, pain or tingling that radiates down into the arm or hand, or other troubling symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. Any of these symptoms with neck pain could indicate a serious underlying medical condition that needs to be accurately diagnosed by a doctor in order to get the correct treatment.”
If you are beyond the initial pains of Text Neck symptoms, it’s important to schedule a visit with your family physician to make sure there isn’t more going on than a simple ache.
In closing, don’t become a HUNCHBACK... or a statistic in the growing numbers of people that have developed chronic neck problems from Text Neck.
Do something about it now before it's too late!
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Arizona Pain, 2019, “How To Fix Your Text Neck Pain and Prevent It In The Future,” https://arizonapain.com/fix-your-text-neck-pain/
Dewitt, M.D., David, 2018, Text Neck Treatment and Prevention,” https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/text-neck-treatment-and-prevention
Essentials, 2018, “What Is Text Neck And How Massage Therapy Can Help,” https://brandonessentials.com/what-is-text-neck-how-massage-therapy-can-help/
Fishmen, D.C., Dean L., 2020, “Text Neck: A Global Epidemic,” https://www.text-neck.com
Fleming, Kristin, 2018, "Tech is turning millennials into a generation of hunchbacks," https://nypost.com/2018/03/05/tech-is-turning-millennials-into-a-generation-of-hunchbacks/
Harvard Health Publishing,2016, “Therapeutic massage for pain relief,” https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/therapeutic-massage-for-pain-relief
Kassel, Gabrielle, 2020, “6 Chiropractor-Approved Exercises to Fight Text Neck,” https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/text-neck-treatment
Morrison, Gavin, 2017, “Neck Strengthening Exercises,” https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/neck-strengthening-exercises
Muller, John, 2020, “15 Shocking Statistics On Neck Pain,” http://ergonomictrends.com/shocking-neck-pain-and-text-neck-stats/
Spine One, 2020, “The Surprising Truth About Text Neck,” https://www.spineone.com/surprising-truth-text-neck/