Texting Neck: How It Ruins Your Spine
What is texting neck?
Texting neck is a term coined by a US chiropractor which refers to the neck pain that resulted from repetitive strain caused by excessive use of mobile phones or handheld devices. With the increasing use of mobile phones among young teenagers and even kids, we are seeing a trend of patients who are coming into our clinic with neck pain getting younger and younger.
This is a particularly concerning trend because the age at which children start to use smartphones is getting younger and most teenagers in Singapore do own a smartphone. With limited research on the safe use of handheld devices, we are unsure about the future implications on kids’ health as they grow up.
Symptoms of texting neck
The picture above illustrates the postures that we normally adopt when we use our phones. The problem is the forward head posture that we adopt. With increased tilt of our head, the more forces are being put on our neck. This may seem trivial at first and won’t cause you any pain in the beginning. However, repeat this every day for a year or two and the repetitive strain will start to bother you. You may even end up with more serious conditions like cervical disc prolapse.
Symptoms of texting neck include:
- Stiff neck
- Pain – usually dull aching pain around the neck and may also affect your shoulders
- Radiating pain – there can often be radiation of pain into the shoulders and arms which usually indicate that your nerves may already be irritated
- Muscular weakness – shoulders muscles namely, trapezius, rhomboids and shoulder external rotators are often weak because of the forward head position
- Headache – this usually presents from the base of your skull up to the back of your eye.
Over the longer term, texting neck can develop into:
- Disc compression/prolapse
- Spinal degeneration
- Flattening of the thoracic spine
- Loss of lung capacity
What to do?
If you already have neck pain, then seek help from a physiotherapist! If you have acute neck pain due to use of smartphones, then our main goal is to reduce your pain. This is achieved by:
- Restoring function of your postural muscles
- Restoring function to your deep neck stabilisers
What you can do:
- Take frequent breaks from smartphone use
- Position your device higher up such that you don’t have to look down to use it
- Use both hands to hold your device, if possible have your arms supported
- Avoid holding static posture for prolonged periods of time