“The term, text neck, is defined as overuse syndrome involving the head, neck and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking in a downward position at hand held devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, e-readers and computer tablets.”
Are you affected by neck pain? Are you reading this article on your phone? With smart phones in almost everyone’s hands, neck pain is on the rise. Do you know some medical doctors and chiropractors are actually using the term “text-neck” as a diagnosis? Yes, you heard me correct, text-neck. What the term actually means is forward head posture causing increased stress in the cervical spine (neck). Because of the overuse of smart phones and texting, people are looking down at their mobile devices for longer periods of time. Over time, this causes the head to jut forward increasing the weight and load on the joints of the neck. If this particular posture continues, it can even cause straightening or reversal of the natural curvature in the neck.
The same is true for regular computer users. When sitting at a computer for 8+ hours a day, the head tends to come forward, the shoulders roll forward and the muscles of the neck and upper back are over stretched while the muscles of the chest are shortened and tightened. When the head is in line with the spine and directly over the shoulders, the cervical spine is able to distribute the weight of the head evenly throughout the joints. This however, is not true when the head is in front of the shoulders.
Imagine holding an 8-12 pound bowling ball with two hands close to your body. Now imagine holding that same ball with your arms stretched out in front of your body. Which is harder? Holding the ball out in front of your body is much harder than keeping it close against the body. The same is true for your head (bowling ball) and cervical spine (arms). When your head is in front of your shoulders, the muscles of the neck and upper back have to work harder to hold it up. This is one of the most prevalent causes of upper back and neck pain.
I’m not telling you you’ll have to quit your desk job or stop texting (although cutting back may help) to alleviate your neck pain. We will give you some tips you can practice instead.
7 Tips to reverse “text-neck”:
1. Limit your electronic usage– I know it sounds simple, and it actually is that simple. Take time away from your phone and give your neck a break! Trust me you will be okay without Facebook or Candy Crush for a few hours.
2. Take micro-breaks at work– Of course it is not possible for some of you to limit your electronic usage when your job requires it. One little tip that helps tremendously is a micro-break. For every hour you are at a desk/computer, take a 1-2 minute break. Try Bruegger’s exercise during each break
3. Bruegger’s– Sit at the edge of your seat. Have your legs hip width apart with your feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. Hang your arms loosely at your side with your palms facing forward. Sit up straight in a neutral position. Be sure not to over-extend to avoid putting a large curve in your low back. Bring your head back so it is directly over your shoulders. Take 5-10 deep breaths in and out. Repeat as needed.
4. Perform neck stretches– The cervical (neck) ranges of motion are a very easy and effective way to stretch your neck. Perform them in the shower with the hot water hitting on your neck and upper back (to help encourage relaxation) or while you are watching T.V.
5. Cervical Ranges of Motion– Go through the following 6 ranges, 2-3 times/day: tuck your chin to your chest (flexion), look up to the ceiling (extension), bend your ear to your shoulder, both sides (lateral flexion), turn your chin to your shoulder, both sides (rotation). The key is to go until you feel restriction, but not past it! Hold for 5-10 seconds. Do NOT force the motion.
6. Use a Cervical Roll– After a long day at work (or on your phone); your neck needs a break. The neck is supposed to have a natural C-shaped curve, but it can be flattened or even reversed. A simple way to help get the curve back is the use of a cervical roll. Take a small hand towel and roll it up length-wise. Once it is rolled you can put a rubber band or duct tape around it to keep it rolled tight. Now laying on your back on a flat surface, place the roll at the base of your neck so your neck naturally curves around it. Do not put it under your head. If your head is propped up you need to move the roll lower down your spine. Relax and rest on the cervical roll for 15-30 minutes/day.
7. Get Adjusted! – After low back pain, neck pain is the second most common reason people see a chiropractor. Chiropractic adjustments will help restore normal joint function and can reduce/eliminate muscular tension.