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Text Neck – Injury Overview

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT January 07, 2021 0 Comments

Neck Pain

Using your cell phone and other mobile devices may be affecting your quality of life more than you think. Have you ever heard of text neck syndrome? This condition is characterized by chronic neck and shoulder pain caused by poor posture while using smart devices. Keep reading to learn what exactly is causing this new phenomenon and the symptoms to look for.

What is Text Neck?

Text neck is described as a repetitive stress injury sustained by spending too many hours hunched over the mobile phone, tablet, or other device.

Is Text Neck Real?

Statistics show that the number of texts sent monthly in the US has increased dramatically over the years. As a result, text neck has become increasingly common.

Causes of Text Neck Syndrome

Text neck syndrome occurs when your head is leaned forward (forward head posture), away from its neutral position for long periods of time, most often caused by holding our handheld devices down low. It may not come naturally, but smartphone users should hold devices at eye level to avoid this forced degree angle on the neck muscles.

Of course, text neck is not only caused by excessive texting. Activities as common as board games, reading, or household chores can all play a role in the development of this condition. The common denominator is that the upper back and head are slumped forward, forcing the entire upper body into a less than ideal posture. 

Text Neck Symptoms

Typically, text neck causes a dull, aching neck pain and stiffness, and if not treated early may lead to more serious health problems. It’s important not to ignore symptoms when they are mild. Here are some text neck symptoms to watch out for:

  • Pain and tightness in the shoulders at the end of the day.
  • Upper back pain that ranges from a sharp, burning pain to severe muscle spasms in your upper back.
  • Inflammation of nerves, muscles and neck ligaments
  • Spinal misalignment
  • Arthritic pain
  • Constant headache that gets worse while driving or using technology.
  • Pain that radiates down to elbows, wrists, and fingers (with severe cases only).
  • A tingling feeling in the upper extremities.
  • Soreness in the neck, back, and shoulders.
  • A change in the curve of the cervical spine.
  • A stiff neck, usually most obvious in the morning or at the end of the day.
  • A weak upper body secondary to poor biomechanics.

Learn How to Treat Text Neck Symptoms

Diagnosing Text Neck

The upper region of the spine (the neck) is normally curved into extension, evident as a backwards “C”, allowing the nerves enough space to travel through the neck and other areas of the body. This normal curve also promotes optimal joint alignment for everyday activities and shock absorption. However as this space starts to close-off and the neck muscles get overworked in awkward positions, pain and other complications can occur.

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms for text neck, see your physical therapist, chiropractor or doctor immediately. Typically, diagnosis can be made with your history and an in-depth physical assessment. If absolutely necessary, your doctor may recommend an X-ray or other imaging, particularly if neurological symptoms like tingling or numbness are present to rule out more serious issues. Text neck may result in permanent damage if not diagnosed early.

Potential complications include:

  • Disc compression
  • Nerve damage
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal deterioration
  • Muscle damage
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Can Text Neck Be Cured?

Yes, text neck can be cured. Recovery usually takes around four to eight weeks but requires a continued self awareness. The healing time however can vary greatly depending on the severity of your condition and compliance to your treatment plan. Follow-up care is essential, as recurrence of text neck can occur. Sometimes physical therapy may be necessary.

The biggest factor in recovery is simply having an awareness of your posture. From there, restoring balance with better ergonomics and a home exercise program will help you feel your best.

Preventing Text Neck Pain

Many people are unaware of the consequences of excessive phone use and other slouch inducing activities. Prevention is key when it comes to chronic text neck pain, though the advice above can make a big difference. Keep devices at eye level, take frequent breaks, and make sure to properly support your spine with good ergonomics (such as at your office, in the car, etc.).

Ways to Treat Text Neck

Continue through our guide for more ways to prevent and improve text neck with stretches and exercises for the upper body, neck, and shoulders. Even a small change in your routine can make a big difference in your everyday life.

Sources:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/what-texting-does-to-the-spine/382890/

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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