First, there was carpal tunnel; now “text neck” is the new tech-induced physical disorder. Text neck symptoms occur when we spend too long in the unnatural posture of looking down. This position can lead to soreness in the neck and shoulders, tightness across the shoulders, chronic headaches, and can exacerbate other spinal conditions.
“The injuries from text neck syndrome results from repetitive stress,” says DFW spine surgeon Dr. Mark Valente. “Having your head hung forward and looking down at your device for long periods of time is not healthy.”
A Heavy Burden
The more you crane your neck, the more weight it has to carry. For every inch forward your head hangs from correct posture–ears above shoulders–the weight your neck has to bear doubles. The human head weighs about 10 pounds, so imagine how much stress your upper spine has to deal with while you spend all day scrolling through emojis.
Before mobile devices became ubiquitous, the average person might have looked down to read, study, or take the occasional test during their school years. Any neck strain this caused would be balanced out by keeping their chin up the majority of the time. With increased cell phone use in recent years, especially while texting, the incidence of neck and spine injury due to prolonged poor posture has spiked sharply.
The most common symptoms associated with text neck syndrome are headaches and neck and shoulder pain. In some, mostly younger adolescents, it can also begin to increase the curvature of the spine. Some research has suggested that text neck could also lead to early onset arthritis or a decrease in lung capacity. Symptoms can include:
- Neck pain and tightening
- Shoulder pain and tightening
- Chronic headaches
- Upper back pain
- Lower back pain
As with many health problems, if you do nothing, the pain will only get worse. So, it’s important to implement steps to improve your posture, strengthen your neck, and create better habits. Some suggested steps to help relieve and prevent text neck symptoms include:
- Take frequent breaks and look up and stretch your neck at least every 15 minutes.
- Hold your device up higher, near eye level.
- Do posture strengthening exercises.
If these measures don’t seem to help, it’s time to see a doctor. If you’re at all concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing chronic back pain, don’t wait until it gets unbearable. Make an appointment today to talk with Dr. Mark Valente to find out how you can become pain free.