Text Neck

Technology is everywhere! Computers, video games, phones and tablets, you name it – it’s all at our fingertips. The advances in technology have been outstanding over the past decade, but so have the rates of neck and back pain. Neck and back pain are already a leader in the largest diagnoses seen at physical therapy. What hasn’t been common in the past, is the outrageous number of adolescents who now are in physical therapy because of complaints of back or neck pain.

Let’s think about what the average teenager does nowadays throughout the week. Let’s be real, what don’t they do

If we take a Monday, for example (back when it wasn’t summer and kids WERE in school…ugh, COVID). Wake up, check their phone for any message they possibly missed throughout the night then scroll through Snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter – the list could go on and on.

Now it’s time to get ready for school (or the day in general), once showered they eat their bowl of cereal – once again staring at their phone with their head in this awful forward bent position. After that, off to school they go for the next seven hours sitting in the most horrendous positions at their desk. If they are tall, they are already at a disadvantage to how much slumping is required to read and write at their desk.

After school, they get on the bus or are a passenger in a car, what are they doing yet again? Checking their phones, while sitting with horrible posture. They park, walk in the door and “decompress” on their phone, computer or by playing video games. The next several hours they are once again hunched forward doing these activities and maybe some homework, so staring down at their books and papers. At 10:00 pm I hear…. ”Geez, my neck (or back) is killing me!” Hmmmm, strange. Now, why might that be happening?!

The term ‘text neck’ is now widely and quickly spreading across America. Text neck refers to repeated stress, injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on hand held devices over a continued period of time. The amount of strain placed on the neck as it is bent forward is enormous. The average adult head weighs between 10 to 12 pounds, but as it is bent forward the amount of weight on the spine increases dramatically. For example, a 15% angle increases to 27 pounds, 30% angle 40 pounds, 45% angle to 49 pounds and we could go on and on. Do this for the average of 4 to 6 plus hours in which teenagers spend on these devices and this is sure to cause pain. And let’s be honest, it’s not just teenagers. Adults are just as guilty!

There is a ripple effect throughout the whole body when our neck is in a poor position. This domino effect starting at the head, causes the upper back to then drift backward to compensate and the hips to tilt forward to counteract. This causes the low back to be put in a compromised position, so we often hear complaints of back pain as well.

The good news is, this is all posture related. The bad news is, it’s a hard habit to break.

And over time, these postural habits can lead to severe changes in our spine, which leads to chronic pain. However, it’s preventable! Here are some quick tips for either your children or yourself:

  1. Be aware of your posture: try to keep your device near mouth or chin level as much as possible using your eyes to look slightly downward instead of your neck.
  2. Limit the time spent on these devices: it’s so important to keep moving! Put variety into the day by frequent interruptions of electronic time. Go for a walk, play with the dog, get on a bike! Just a 5-minute break can do the body good.
  3. Take frequent stretch breaks: every 15 minutes spent on a device whether it’s a computer, video game, smartphone, etc.; take posture breaks and sit up as tall as possible. Roll your shoulders backward 10 times. Tuck your chin in like a turtle 10 times. Look to the ceiling 10 times, arch over a chair 10 times.
  4. Listen to your body: if you start noticing any soreness or pain that is a direct queue to alter your position and take stretch breaks. Don’t think if you ignore it, it will go away!

Head’s up….Are you developing text neck? Let your 100% locally owned physical therapy company help you! To schedule an appointment at your local Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy clinic, give your nearest clinic a call or email us at receptionist@hyphysicaltherapy.com. We will be in touch with you as soon as possible to help you treat your pain!

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Robyn Smith