You Have “Text Neck”. Why? Because You’re Staring Down at Your Phone All Day

“Text Neck” is a term coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, after he noticed more and more  people were coming to his office with the same complaint — they all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. This was concurrent with the rapid rise of smartphone usage.

After studying the new phenomenon, it was found that text neck (also called “iHunch” by some) leads to premature wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration. It’s also become a pretty widespread condition. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”[1]

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

You might ask, “So what’s the big deal with putting your head down to check out an email?”

Fair enough. Let’s start with the fact that the typical human head weighs about 12 pounds. And the neck is fine with holding that amount of weight up, it was made to carry heads around, right?

Right. However…

When you bend that neck forward and down to check out something on your phone, the weight impact increases on your cervical spine (the structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders). For example, at a 15-degree angle, your head puts 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds. At 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.

That’s a lot. 

Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours a day (and just imagine it, don’t try to actually do it!) and you’ll get the idea.

As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore and inflamed. That causes muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. And the other thing to keep in mind is you’re also engaging in poor posture when you’re in the “text neck” position and that causes other problems. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent as well as cause neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

Oh, and those headaches you might think are being caused by the tension and stress of your job? The truth is it’s highly likely they’re being caused by text neck because it’s another common symptom. They feel exactly like tension headaches…but aren’t.

I know it’s silly to think all these bad things can happen just as a result of staring at your smartphone. But Google “text neck” for yourself and you’ll see for yourself — these physical outcomes are all the real deal.


[1] Lindsay, Bever, “Text Neck Is Becoming an Epidemic and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post, 11/20/2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/

If you want to read more about “Text Neck”, and other chronic pain issues, go to my website and order my new book Athlete in the Game of Life.

Text Neck: How to Overcome the New Pandemic in Neck Pain

Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands.  They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback.  Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Pick up your head and look around.  Does your neck hurt just do that motion?  Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders?  If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”.  Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). 

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries.  The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years.  This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).

How does this affect you in these pandemic times?  People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before.  Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches.  Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016).  Does this ring a bell for you? 

The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about.  The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy.  An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions!  Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:

Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.

Thoracic spine foam rolling

Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.

Stretching your neck muscles

Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements.  Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching.  Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.

Ball squat with scapular retraction

Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle.  If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it.  Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Video Conference Calls Can Be Hazardous to Your Cervical Spine During Stay at Home

Work from home video conferencing is hotter and trendier than ever.  Staying safe is the mantra for reducing human contact and spreading COVID-19.  Many workers are able to continue in their jobs and companies have found ways to allow them to remain connected.  Even socially, people are having virtual happy hours and seeing old friends through the use of Zoom, Go To Meeting, and other video conference sites.  What is going largely unnoticed, are the significant tolls more screen time is playing on the physical dysfunction of our society.

tmjstc david website v1

Text Neck is a new term that describes how basically all humans are looking down to view their phones constantly.  It’s coupled with now leaning forward even more into laptop and tablet screens on multiple video conference calls daily.  This “new normal” posture wreaks havoc on the spinal discs in your cervical vertebrae.  The natural effects of aging are accelerated in middle age and younger adults, making them appear shorter and causing Degenerative Disc Disease, commonly called a herniated or bulging disc.  Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can lead to excessive compression forces placed on the facet joints, which can cause pain and predispose to arthritic degeneration (Kumaresan, Yoganandan, Pintar, Maiman, & Goel, 2001).  You may not even realize the damage you’re doing because there are no nerve endings in the disc itself.  Up to 35% of individuals between 40 and 64 years of age may have a cervical disc herniation without symptoms (Antoni & Croft, 2006).

At what point do you take notice of your lack of mobility and reduction in quality of life?  Likely you haven’t noticed because you’re staring down at your phone.  The consequences are felt when you perform motions like turning your head to back your car up.  Not all cars have backup cameras, and now you’re compromising the safety of everyone in your car and oncoming cars.  You probably haven’t thought about that lately, it just hurts to turn your head more for some reason.

More seat and device time also lead to increased risk of COVID-19 death factors such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  While working from home may be great on the outside appearance, unless you regulate screen time even more, you are at risk of physically debilitating issues.  Being home also ties you longer to the screen because “working hours” don’t exist to the extent as before.  24/7 connection to email and other technology makes you accessible 24/7.  In going to work, there is a start and finish typically five days a week, this is no longer the case.

The need for self-preservation regarding spinal and joint dysfunction is now paramount.  Using specialized techniques for stretching and strengthening muscles to prevent soft tissue injuries in this COVID-19 world are now vital.  I offer a program to assist executives and professionals overcome these trying times with their joint mobility.  You can find specific information on my site.  You can also email me at athelteinthegameoflife@gmail.com for questions about the highly specialized program I offer.

Get control of your daily screen time tasks before they reduce you to constant pain and arthritis!