Is your smartphone causing your neck pain?
Have you been suffering from neck and upper back pain? Do you also spend several hours a day looking at a laptop or your smartphone ?
The two might be more connected than you think. “Text neck” is a term used to describe the condition caused by repetitive stress or strain of the neck muscles due to excessive use of smartphones and tablets. This condition has become increasingly more prevalent in recent years.
Tilting your head down to look at your phone, laptop, etc. can have a direct effect on the muscles and joints of your spine. Tilting the head forward to 15 degrees places about 27 pounds of force on the neck. This increases to 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
When our head is in a neutral position (looking straight ahead) the neck and shoulder muscles don’t have to work as hard to fight the forces of gravity. However, as mentioned above, for every few degrees that we tilt our head down the stress on the neck muscles increases and the muscles have to work harder to support the weight. When we hold this posture for long periods of time, the neck muscles can get strained leading to muscle stiffness, headaches, and pain.
To prevent and treat the negative effects of these chronic postures consider implementing these corrective exercises and modifications into your daily routine:
1. The Chin-Tuck Exercise:
Without moving your upper back try to shift your whole head and neck backwards trying to give yourself a “double chin” and hold the position for ten seconds. You may feel a stretch around the base of your skull but you want to feel the activation of the muscles in the front of your neck.
2. Shoulder Blade Squeeze:
Stand or sit with your arms at your sides, and squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly. Hold this position for 10 seconds and relax. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
3. Avoid looking down at your phone, iPad etc:
To limit the stress on the back of the neck try to bring your electronic device more towards eye level as opposed to looking down.
4. Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks:
You can follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, stand up for 20 seconds and move around (or better yet do some of the exercises above) and look at something 20 feet away.
Neupane S, Ifthikar Ali UT, Mathew A. Text-Neck Syndrome-Systemic review. Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research. 2017;3(7):141-148. Accessed 18 July 2019.