Text Neck: A Growing Problem in a Digital World

What is Text Neck?

Man textingText Neck refers to pain caused by texting that starts in the neck and upper back. Text Neck is a growing problem because so many people, including children, are constantly using smart phones, iPads, handheld computers and video games. Most people are looking down at their phone when they are text messaging. It is estimated that most people spend 2-4 hours everyday looking down at their phone while texting, emailing, using apps, or on social media. This adds up to between 700 – 1400 hours a year — and for most teenagers it can be more than 5000 hours — with the head in a down and forward position that will pull on the neck and the supporting muscles and ligaments.

What Causes Text Neck?

The number one cause of Text Neck is bad posture. When we text or play video games with our heads bent forward and down, we increase the stress on our neck and upper spine. The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds, but texting with our head bent at a 60º angle increases it to the equivalent of 60 pounds. Even just a 30º downward angle puts 40 pounds of pressure on the neck — four times the pressure our necks are used to dealing with.

The neck (cervical spine) is designed to achieve several important functions:

  1. Allows you to turn your head from side-to-side and up and down
  2. Act as a shock absorber shielding the brain from jolts and jarring knocks
  3. Protect the nerves that run inside the spine, down from the brain and then branch out throughout the body

The proper curvature of the cervical spine is similar to a “C” with the opening pointing to your back. When you look at the entire spine, it forms an “S” shape. Without the natural and proper curvatures to the spine, we wouldn’t be able to bend, twist, and turn properly. Texting or spending time on social media with our heads bent down and forward is an unnatural position for the neck, pulling the curvature of the spine in the opposite direction it is supposed to go. This is unhealthy for the neck and upper spine.

Over time, the hours of bad posture pull against the natural curvature of the spine, and instead of our necks curving properly toward the back, the natural curvature of the cervical spine (neck) can be reversed and actually bend in the opposite direction. In addition to the neck bending the wrong way, hours of sitting (or standing) with our heads in the forward and down position will weaken the muscles in the neck and upper back, damage the tissues in the neck, and round the shoulders forward.

In the initial stages of text neck you may not experience much pain, or have pain that comes and goes, but over time if left uncorrected text neck will lead to a lot of pain.

Text Neck and Forward Head Position

Chiropractors have been dealing with “Forward Head Position” for a long time. In extreme cases, we see people that are permanently bent over from the upper back and head. They need assistance from a cane or walker to keep from falling over when they walk. We have found that Text Neck causes the same problems and issues as the forward head position.

Kids looking down textWe are already seeing a growing number of young children experiencing neck pain from the poor posture used while texting, on social media, and/or playing handheld video games. As more and more hours are spent daily with their heads in a down and forward position, we expect the problem get worse.

As the cellphone evolved to smart phones, many people — especially teenagers — stopped making phone calls and started relying heavily on texting instead. Then, as internet connections have become faster and data limits were raised (many to unlimited), people are spending even more time using their phones. As mentioned earlier in this article, bad posture is the leading cause of Text Neck. The more capable our phones become, and the more we rely on them, the more important proper posture becomes while using them.

Problems Due to Text Neck

Only 10% of our nervous system can feel pain, so text neck can be causing damage before most people are aware there is a problem. Usually, most people become aware that something is wrong when they start experiencing headaches and neck pain.

As Text Neck pulls the cervical spine and upper back forward, the nerves it protects can become pinched, experience pressure, or even become herniated discs. Text Neck causes the subluxations (misalignments) in the spine. These subluxation in turn cause interference in the nervous system causing, not only pain, but poor communication between your brain and the muscles, organs, and every function of the body. Physically, over time, your muscles will get weaker, your shoulders will round forward, and you gain a hunched over appearance.

The nerves most effected by text neck will be in the cervical spine and upper back (C1 – T5). The nerves that exit the spine in this area deal mainly with the functions of your eyes, brain, sinuses, hearing, facial muscles, pituitary glands, and more. As Text Neck pulls the head forward, in addition to changing the natural curvature of the spine, it also transforms the shape and size of the openings the nerves use to exit the spine. This causes the nerves to be pinched and their function to be diminished.

Here is a partial list of the problems Text Neck can cause.

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing Issues
  • Thyroid Problems
  • Sinus Problems
  • Pain (Neck, Upper Back, Radiating Down the Arms)
  • Vision Problems
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Arthritis in the Neck
  • Disc Degeneration
  • And More

Additionally, Text Neck can reduce your lung capacity, which in turn lowers the amount of oxygen in your body and for your brain. Since oxygen is vital to the healing process, lower amounts of oxygen in your body will slow down your healing process and reduce your resistance to disease.

How to Protect Yourself from Text Neck

The first thing is to be aware of the poor posture that texting can bring, and be consciously taking measures to avoid the amount of time we spend with our heads in the down and forward position. Simply lifting your smart phone to a higher position will help reduce the pressure on your neck.

We also spend way too much time sitting (which causes its own set of problems). Standing up and moving around for at least 5-10 minutes every hour will improve your posture.

Since you are now aware of the problems caused by Text Neck, you can take proactive measures to ensure the health of your cervical spine. While I don’t expect people to stop using their phones and texting, texting with your head in the down and forward position will cause subluxations. Seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis to correct the subluxations (misalignments) will go a long way toward protecting your spine and the function of your nervous system.

Text Neck and Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors with their training are the most qualified doctors in the medical field to correct text neck and the problems associated with it. Text Neck causes misalignments of the vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine) and upper back, so it is only natural to go to a chiropractor since they are trained to adjust the vertebrae in your spine so it is correctly aligned.

At Tuckahoe Family Chiropractic, we will be able to show you on an x-ray exactly the problems text neck may have caused, and how far advanced your condition may be. We will be able to locate and correct your problem, stop the pain, and in most cases reverse the problems caused by text neck to restore proper function to your nerves.

Please contact us at 804.740.3434 to set your appointment today. Text neck is a growing problem — don’t give it time become a major one. If any of your friends and family do a lot of texting, please recommend this article to them.

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The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.