As we become more dependent on technology in the 21st century, new sustained postural positions are created causing imbalances in our muscles. “Text Neck” is an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding your head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. When holding your head in this position, excessive amounts of tension are created in the deep muscles of your neck and across the shoulders causing both acute and chronic neck pain. The increased prevalence of these pains is due to the increasing popularity and hours people spend on handheld devices such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets.
When in an upright posture, when the ears are aligned with the centre of your shoulders, the weight of the average head exerts approximately 5kg of force through the muscles of the neck. But when your head is moved forward from this neutral position by as little as 15 degrees the force created of on the cervical spine (neck) dramatically increases. When looking down at your phone or device approximately 6 times as much force on the neck can be generated!!! That is the same weight as an average 8 year old, or six ten-pin bowling balls!!!
Some symptoms of “Text Neck” include:
- A stiff neck: soreness and difficulty in moving the neck particularly when trying to move the neck after long usages
- Pain: can be localised to one spot or may spread over other areas, usually the lower part of the neck. May be described as dull aching but can also be sharp or stabbing. Pain can also radiate into the shoulders and arms.
- Headaches: sub-occipital muscle tightness can lead to tension type headaches
- Muscular imbalances: particularly weakness in the shoulders muscles: trapezius, rhomboids and shoulder external rotators, and tightness through the pecs, scalenes, platysma and sternocleidomastoid
- Loss of lung volume capacity: this is particularly important for our fabulous singing clients! When the head is down and the thoracic rounded forward it decreases the ability for the ribcage to move well and in combination with muscular imbalances – your voice may be the thing that suffers
So what do you do about it?
Prevention is key:
- Avoid excessive device usage and take frequent breaks
- Avoid prolonged static postures
- Position the device such that it reduces stresses both on the head/neck and the upper extremities. For example: when sitting, put your bag under your device to raise it up when on public transport, at the office or on the couch.
- Avoid high repetitions of movements such as prolonged typing or swiping
- Avoid holding large or heavy devices in one hand for long durations