Staring Down At Your Phone Is Giving You 'Text Neck' — Here's How to Combat It
Feb 17, 2020
This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast.
Photo Credit: YouTube, Leaving Stone TV
Let's try to ignore the low resolution of the image above for a moment (it was surprisingly difficult to search for images of people on their cell phones at a brewery, despite how common it is to see IRL) and just focus on the scene that it conveys.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: when is the last time that you walked into a brewery, a gym, a coffee shop, or almost any other shared public space and didn't see at least a third of the people there bent over their cell phones?
Even scarier to consider: how many times today were you hunched over your own cell phone?
The reality is that nearly all of us are guilty of spending time looking down at our phones — and as a result of that poor posture, we're susceptible to the dangers of "text neck."
We spoke with Carol Green — a physical therapist, Clinical Specialist Level II, and certified orthopedic manual therapist specializing in manual therapy for the spine and extremities at OrthoCarolina — about the perils of texting and how you can combat "text neck" in your own life.
How Texting Can Negatively Impact Your Neck, Back & Shoulders
According to Green, a slumped upper back and jutted-forward head posture (i.e. "hunchback") can occur when you look down at your phone — or anything else! — for extended periods of time.
Aside from the Quasimodo-like aesthetics, this slumping can cause serious physical issues for your neck, back, and shoulders.
"The deep neck flexor muscles are the longus coli and longus capitus muscles. These muscles are the core muscles in the front of the neck, which get weak due to the head being forward with the chin jutted out," Green explains. "The muscles in the back of the neck, subocciptials, get very tight and hard — and the shoulder blade, or scapula, muscles and upper back muscles get weak due to overstretching of this area from the slumped posture."
And despite what the iconic movie Jerry Maguire taught us about the human head weighing 8 pounds, Green says it's actually more like 10-15 pounds.
"That might not seem like much, but if you had to hold a 10 pound bowling ball on an outstretched arm all day, it would get very heavy," she says. "And for every inch your head goes forward, that is an additional 10 pounds of force on your spine. That is similar to what happens with the neck when the head is pitched forward."
Aside from your neck, back, and shoulders, Carol also notes that cumulative trauma to the thumbs can occur due to the high repetitions of keystrokes used when texting — which is problematic, since she explains that your thumbs are used in 60% of all hand movements that are performed daily.
Photo Credit: SELF Magazine
How to Prevent Pain & Weakness Caused By Text Neck
Don't feel like you have to ditch your phone altogether, though — Green has four stretches to recommend to help you combat text neck, avoiding the pain and appearance of any sort of "hunchback" situation and strengthening your neck, back, and shoulder muscles.
Green recommends that you perform these exercises for 15 seconds each, 2-3 times per day. (Think: before work, at lunch, and after work!)
1) Head Nod. "Sit tall and nod your chin toward your throat (not your chest) and you can strengthen the deep neck flexors in the front," Green says.
2) Standing Chest Stretch. "Pull your shoulder blades down and back by clasping your hands behind your back to strengthen the shoulder blade muscles," she advises.
3) Goal Post Arms. "Arms out to the side, with elbows bent to 90 degrees, then squeeze shoulder blades together in the back," Green instructs. "Feel the muscles work!"
4) Thumbless Texting Time. "Reduce thumb issues by occasionally using other fingers to text even though it may slow you down a bit," she says. "Think tall, and bring your phone up to chest height so you can look straight ahead instead of bending forward."
Photo Credit: Flickr, Brian Bilek
Learn More About Making Healthy Choices From the Experts at OrthoCarolina
Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.