The expression “pain in the neck” has a new, serious meaning. If you have neck, upper back or shoulder pain, it’s possible you’re suffering from text neck. While it’s not an official medical diagnosis, medical experts coined it to describe a repetitive stress injury they say comes from looking down while texting or using a mobile device — regardless of age.
The neck is a fairly small stem that holds up the human head, which researchers say weighs about 10-15 pounds. When you stand up straight, the weight of your head falls directly over your neck and exerts 10 to 12 pounds of force. When you bend your head forward, it applies force to your neck. For every 10 degrees you move your head forward, the force on your neck increases by 10 pounds.
Signs and symptoms
According to the Spine Wellness Center in Las Vegas, these are the signs and symptoms of text neck syndrome:
- Instant upper back or neck pain when using a handheld device.
- Nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at the end of the day.
- General shoulder pain and tightness.
- Intermittent or constant headache made worse when looking down or using the computer.
To decrease the stress on your neck, here are a few ideas on how to prevent text neck.
- Raise your device to eye level. Hold your phone higher with your arms or prop your computer up with books so it’s at eye level.
- Find a chair with armrests and avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
- Try voice recognition technology (voice-to-text) instead of manually typing to alleviate stress on your back and neck.
- Use stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles, establish your range of motion, and alleviate neck fatigue.
Orthopedic surgeon and Growing Bolder contributor Dr. Vonda Wright recommends this daily exercise routine for neck and shoulder pain. You might know them as “neck rolls.”
- Begin in a seated position.
- Leading with your chin, bend your neck forward so that your chin moves toward your chest. You will feel a stretch down the back of your neck and across your upper shoulders.
- Next, turn your chin toward your left shoulder and try to touch your shoulder with your chin. If you can’t reach your shoulder, it’s OK. Don’t raise your shoulder to meet your chin.
- Extend your neck back so that your chin is facing the ceiling. You may feel pressure in the back of your neck and shoulder blades.
- Finally, turn your chin toward your right shoulder. Again, do not raise your shoulder to meet your chin.
Wright says this range-of-motion exercise should be performed in a slow, continuous arc. Do it four times in a row, moving your chin from front to side to back to side. If you feel any pain shooting down your arms, or numbness in your hands while doing this exercise, stop and make an appointment with your doctor to make sure you aren’t pinching any nerves.
Using proper posture and making a few minor ergonomic adjustments can make a big difference in relieving pain in your neck and avoiding text neck.