Text neck is a stress injury that is caused by repeated tilting the head forward to look at a smart phone or other handheld device. Considered to be an injury of the modern age, it’s being diagnosed more frequently than ever before due to the amount of time we spend tilting our head to look at our phones. We use our smartphones for almost everything. We text, read emails, look for travel directions, order food and video chat with friends and family. The more we look down, the more pressure that is placed on the neck straining the musculoskeletal structure and leading to repetitive, stress-related injuries.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with text neck syndrome. Although pain and stiffness are the most common and can range in severity, the following are also possible:
• Headaches that radiate from neck up into the occipital area of the skull eventually leading to tension headaches
• Muscle weakness that extends downward into the shoulders and the upper arms
• Pain that originates in the neck but radiates outward causing a dull ache across the shoulders
• Possible disc degeneration if left untreated
In the beginning, you may only experience mild discomfort. The longer the problem goes unresolved, the higher your risk of long-term damage to the vertebrae in the neck. Repeatedly placing the neck under this type of pressure for long periods of time can also lead to early onset arthritis and bone degeneration.
Treating text neck can take several forms. Pain and inflammation can be reduced through the use of over the counter, anti-inflammatory medications. You can also visit a massage therapist or chiropractor. Many chiropractors offer massage therapy in addition to the adjustment to enhance its benefits and prolong the healing effects. Massage strengths the soft tissues by restoring blood flow and keeping the muscles pliable and relaxed. Other therapies include:
• Exercises that help to correct and restore proper posture
• Taping techniques that help to stabilize and support the connective tissues in the neck
• Neck exercises that improve flexibility and help to maintain stability
• Physical therapy that strengthens the musculoskeletal structures and improves overall range of motion
It’s also important to rest the neck by avoiding the behaviors that allowed the condition to form in the first place. Using kinesiology tape will also provide additional support and help to stabilize the neck while you go about your day.
Text neck syndrome can easily be prevented. The relative newness of the condition indicates that the overuse of cell phones, tablets, and laptops can lead to actual physiological damage to the body. We can reduce the stress placed on the neck, head, and shoulders by limiting our use of the devices that cause us to constantly tilt our heads forward. While texting is effective, take the time to make a phone call and connect with your friends and family. Instead of constantly tilting your head, raise your device so that the pressure on your neck decreases.
Lastly, the best way to protect your head, neck, and shoulders from any type of stress-related injury is to strengthen the area with exercises and stretching. Yoga, Pilates, and strength training can improve the strength and resiliency of your muscles, relieving stress and maintaining flexibility. Neck massages can also relieve unwanted tension in the muscles. If you spend an excessive amount of time looking down or tilting your head forward, follow a few of these steps. Your neck will begin to feel better and you will find yourself focusing more on the world around you than the phone you have in your hand.