Phones Can Be a Pain in the Neck:Text Neck Signs and Solutions
The introduction of the mobile phone into our lives has changed everything.
There are hundreds, even millions of pros and cons to do with the prevalence of mobile phones in our lives. But, we’re not here to debate those.
Instead, in this post, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest and quite literal pains in the neck that mobile phone use has created and that is what is commonly called text neck syndrome.
We’ll explain what it is, and go through the signs and symptoms so that you can be aware if you might be suffering from this very common problem which has been described by many professionals and in medical journals as a ‘modern epidemic’.
We’ll also go through some helpful exercises as well as other tips to help relieve symptoms and prevent escalation.
What Is Text Neck Syndrome?
The term text neck syndrome is used to describe the pain and problems caused by looking both forwards and down at our mobile phone or other device screens for long periods.
It is sometimes called tech neck too, as it is not purely phone use that drives this problem.
Our spine is simply not supposed to support our head when it is leaning forward like that. When the head is upright, in its neutral position, the bones of the spine; the vertebrae are in a neat stack and the head's weight is easily supported.
However, the weight of the head increases the further forward and down it moves. Just a 2 or 3cm difference in this forward and down angle of the neck can increase the weight and downward force by up to 6 times, this is the equivalent of over 10kg.
It’s far more common though for people to lean their head forward by 4 or 5cm creating an angle of around 45 degrees. The extra weight pulling on the neck at this angle is more like 20-25kg.
People will even, especially after long periods leaning their head forward looking at their devices have an even more extreme tilt of the head forward as the weight of it pulls it further down - this can create the force or weight of around 30kg - that is the same as an 8-year-old!
You can understand why this weight pulling down on the neck for many hours of the day (just check your phone usage to see how many hours you are on yours) can cause many problems with the neck, back, and shoulders and cause knock-on effects throughout the rest of the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Text Neck Syndrome
Neck pain especially in the lower neck and especially after looking down.
Stabbing pains in the neck and upper back.
Dull aching pains in the neck.
Numbness or tingling in the arms sometimes in the shoulders and hands too.
Muscle strain - especially in the neck.
If left untreated it can lead to:
Compression of the spine.
Reduced lung capacity.
How to Prevent Text Neck
Awareness of your posture when using devices; try to keep your head up as much as possible.
Take regular breaks from devices.
Make use of ergonomic accessories that can help you achieve a healthier posture when using devices.
Use activity trackers with posture monitoring included.
Exercises To Relieve Symptoms of Text Neck
As well as following the tips already mentioned for preventing text neck, there are exercises, including stretches and yoga that you can do to help manage your symptoms and that will strengthen your muscles to help prevent further agitation and strain.
Exercise 1: Lateral Neck Stretch
Stand with your feet pointing forward and around hip-width apart.
Tighten your core; tense your stomach.
Keep your back straight, with your shoulders down and back.
Tilt your head as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder; while keeping your shoulders down and back.
Hold the stretch for between 5-10 seconds or for as long as is comfortable.
Keep your movements slow and comfortable; you should feel a stretch but not to the point of it being painful.
Repeat on the other side.
Do this stretch between 2-5 times building up your reps the more you repeat it.
Exercise 2: Hyoid Stretch
You can do this sitting down.
Sit with your back straight and lift your palm to your forehead.
Push your forehead into your palm and resist the push with your hand.
Hold for 3-5 seconds.
Exercise 3: Cat/Cow Stretch
From all fours begin from a flat back position.
Arch your back up like a cat with your head forward and down. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
Then slowly move into the cow position with your back arching the opposite way, your stomach pushing towards the floor and your chest and head lifted. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
Osteopathic Treatments for Text Neck
As with any other neck pains and problems our osteopaths at the Brixton Therapy Centre will begin with a thorough assessment and the creation of a treatment plan.
Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
Text neck itself is not an official medical diagnosis; it is simply the common name given to the repetitive strain injury caused by keeping the head in a forward and downward position for long periods regularly. So don’t be surprised if this nickname doesn’t appear on your plan!
It is this stress and strain on the neck, shoulders and upper back and the knock-on or referred pains that your osteopath will help to alleviate by both relieving pain and increasing strength and mobility with manipulation and a list of exercises for you to do at home.
Muscle Energy Technique
The treatments that are likely to be included in your plan include the use of the Muscle Energy Technique to help lengthen the muscles, particularly the anterior neck muscles - that is the muscles at the front of the neck.
Traction, Massage and Counterstrain Technique
Gentle traction, massage and counterstrain techniques might be used to help relieve the strain from the posterior neck muscles; those at the back of the neck that have been taking the weight of the head for so long and are stressed and overworked.
Counterstrain technique and joint manipulation may also help to increase mobility and reduce pain lower down the spine especially if the overworked posterior neck muscles have put excess pressure on the vertebral joints.
Massage will also help with a speedier recovery due to the increased blood flow and therefore the body's natural healing defences.
Did You Recognise the Signs of Text Neck?
If you read this article and the symptoms of text neck seemed all too familiar, get in touch with our team at Brixton Therapy Centre. You don’t have to suffer in silence and you certainly don’t have to wait until the damage worsens, causes serious health problems or becomes irreversible.