Written by: Dr. Gloria Cheung, DC, MSc
I would like to invite anyone to introduce to me, someone who doesn’t use their cellphone on a daily basis. In fact, most of you are probably reading this blog post from your cellphone right now! On average, between keeping up with friends and family, work, news, emails and for leisure – the average person spends 5 hours everyday looking at their phone! And unfortunately, all that time looking down at your phone has consequences for your neck.
“Text-neck” is a term used to describe the neck pain, back pain, and even headaches or migraines that people experience as a result from frequently looking down at your mobile device, whether that be a cellphone, tablet or computer.
What happens exactly?
The human head weighs approximately 10-12 pounds. When the head bends forward to look down at your mobile device, the weight that is put on your neck (aka cervical spine) increases. Even with a small, 5 degree forward tilt, your neck has to support nearly 30 pounds! The more you crane your neck, the more weight it has to carry, as the image below shows.
What are the symptoms with text-neck?
This change in posture compresses the muscles and ligaments in the front of the neck, while lengthening the ones in the back. If you have text-neck, you may feel one or a combination of the following:
- Neck and upper back pain ranging from a dull, stiff pain to sharp muscle spasms that are typically worse at the end of the day,
- Headaches in your temples, forehead or behind the eye,
- Shoulder pain and stiffness,
- Numbness and tingling down your arms,
It may also put you at risk for early onset arthritis of the neck. It is important to identify that you are experiencing text-neck, as the quicker you can take steps to reduce the symptoms, the better your overall health will be!
So what can I do, doc?
It’s important to practice good habits when you’re on your mobile device, in order to prevent and minimize the pain from text-neck. Here are some tips that you can easily do at home, at work or at school.
- Bring your screen to eye level, so your head is not hanging forward. When on your phone, bring your arms up. When working on your laptop for prolonged periods of time, stack books under your laptop, or invest in an ergonomic desk set up.
- Try your best to maintain good posture, making sure that your ear is in line with your shoulder.
- Take frequent breaks from your screen. Set reminders on your phone for every 30 minutes to get up, stretch and move around. Your neck and back will thank you!
- Arch your neck and upper back backwards periodically for a nice stretch.
- Share these tips with your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you see who may have text-neck!
- If the pain continues to bother you, please consult a healthcare professional and minimize the amount of painkillers you take.
Digital health and wellness is an important aspect of modern day society and cellphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices are here to stay. It is imperative that we continue to use them responsibly and with good habits. If you have any questions, please get in touch at [email protected].