Do you have neck or upper back tension, stiffness or pain related to using your computer, tablet or phone? You may have the modern malady known as ‘Tech Neck’ AKA, ‘Text Neck’ – And here’s why you should probably take that nagging neck pain seriously!
Here’s a YouTube video playlist with four videos defining, describing and offering tips and solutions to avoiding or correcting Tech Neck – Doctors, a TV Journalist and a Yoga Teacher all share their views.
Video Playlist on: “Tech Neck is a real thing!” “Could it be the cause of your headaches or neck pain?” “Kids and teens suffering from ‘Text Neck'” and “Yoga For Text Neck | Yoga With Adriene” – on YouTube
Video Playlist Table Of Contents
- First Video: Could Tech Neck Be The Cause of Your Headaches or Neck Pain? – (Dr. Steven Pollei, a CDI Neuroradiologist and Dr. Tony Orriger, a Chripractor / Athletic Trainer, explain the basic problem of ‘Tech Neck’)
- Second Video: Tech Neck Is A Real Thing (And I Have It) – (Bridget Carey, senior Editor for CNET, shares her personal struggle with Tech Neck, which arose from poor computer and smartphone Ergonomics.)
- Third Video: Kids and teens suffering from ‘Text Neck’ – (A Denver7 news clip on the rising numbers of teens suffering from ‘Text Neck’ – chronic neck pain from too much time looking down at phones + texting)
- Fourth Video: Yoga For Text Neck | Yoga With Adriene – (Yoga Teaher, Adriene, demonstrates some Yoga poses to counteract the effects of phone and computer use on ones neck and back, AKA, “Tech Neck”)
What Is Tech Neck (Or Text Neck?) And Is There A Difference?
‘Tech Neck’ seems to be the more general term for tech-related stress, repetitive strain and poor Ergonomics that causes neck and upper back pain.
‘Text Neck’ seems to be more specific to the stress and eventual damage to the cervical spine that can result from looking down and texting too much on ones smartphone or tablet.
According to Physiopedia, it describes: “repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on hand held devices over a sustained period of time.”
The term ‘Text Neck’ was coined by Dr. DL Fishman, D.C., a Florida Chiropractor.
He came up with it in 2008 while examining and treating a teenage patient, who was complaining of headaches and neck pain, according to this CNN article: Your Smartphone Is A Pain In The Neck
It applies to emailing on ones phone or tablet, as well as the ubiquitous texting everyone is so fond of – Not to mention gaming!
A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the age 18-44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time, with only 2 hour of their walking day spend without their cell on hand. Text neck most commonly causes neck pain and soreness.
Text-Neck Syndrome- Systematic Review Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research; Sunil Neupane, U T Ifthikar Ali, Mathew A. 2017;3(7):141-148
Text Neck Syndrome – Systematic Review
The essence of the problem is that the human head is very heavy, weighing in at 8-12 pounds for an average adult, which is comparable to a bowling ball.
When balanced over the shoulders, this weight is handled perfectly by the vertebrae of the cervical and thoracic spine, and the muscles of the head and spine…
However, every degree that the head is “forward” over the shoulders and/or tilted into “flexion” (which increases the lower one is looking down)…
The heavier the head becomes, relatively speaking, considering the muscular effort required to counteract the forces of gravity. See this image for an idea of how forces on the neck increase:
At first glance, this may look mostly like a teenager’s or Millennial Generation’s malady, however, according to this article from MDLinx Internal Medicine, ‘Here’s How Your Smartphone Is Hurting Your Health’ which quotes a 2018 Nielsen Report:
“…adults ages 35 to 49 spend more hours on phones and computers than younger people.”
So, just about everyone should probably be at least a little concerned about this modern malady.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tech Neck?
The most common manifestations of Text Neck are neck pain, soreness and stiffness.
- Stiff neck / Shoulders: Muscle and joint stiffness and difficulty moving ones neck and head, especially after long periods of using a device (but also commonly in the morning upon waking)
- Pain and soreness: Usually mostly muscular soreness or pain, which can be specific to one spot or more of a general, dull ache over a larger area of the neck or upper shoulders / upper back. Can become a sharp or stabbing pain in extreme or advanced cases.
- Muscular weakness: The muscles of the neck and shoulders – especially the muscles that either help to extend and “hold up” the head from the back (which originate as low as the mid-upper back) or muscles that can help by compensating (very often the Levator Scapula and Upper Trapezius) often become exhausted and weak
- Headaches: The little muscles at the base of the skull, known as the Sub-Occipitals, can become excessively tight and cause potentially severe tension headaches, partly by restricting the blood flow of the Vertebral Artery, which lies just underneath those muscles.
And, more serious conditions can arise, if the compressive forces from being out of alignment with gravity, and having excessive, chronic muscle tension continue unchecked long enough. These serious conditions can include:
- Arthritis of the Cervical and Thoracic Spine,
- Disc Degeneration of the Cervical and Thoracic Spine,
- Herniated Discs of the Cervical and Thoracic Spine,
- ‘Radiculopathy’ / Radiating Pain – Pain that radiates into the arms due to nerve entrapments in the spine or ‘Thoracic Outlet Syndrome’
So, What’s The Solution To Text Neck?
The first, and obvious answer is to stop looking down at your phone or tablet so much, and to practice better posture / Ergonomics.
Naturally, this is easier said than done once you’ve developed and en-trained those bad habits over many years (in most cases.)
But the consequences of not breaking the cycle can eventually be devastating.
At least vow to stop texting or browsing your social media accounts while walking. It’s just not necessary except in rare instances, right?
It’s very difficult to walk, text… watch where you’re going… AND maintain any semblance of proper posture!
How about using your device in bed at night? Can you break that one? At least prop your device up on a stack of pillows or cushions if you keep doing that!
If you are truly in a lot of pain or have what seems to be stubbornly chronic symptoms, whether mild, moderate OR severe, then please seek some help from a professional.
Depending on your needs, a Bodyworker, like myself, who can work out some of your muscular patterns might come in very handy (pun intended)…
Sometimes a Chiropractor is called for if you have significant spinal issues. There are corrections that only a Chiropractor (or an Osteopath) can properly make…
Or you may find that a Physical Therapist or Physiotherapist is just what you need.
And, of course, being sure to get enough exercise and to maintain your core and upper body strength is essential. There’s no way around that in the long run!
Other Repetitive Strain Injuries And Syndromes
Here are some other related RSIs / Repetitive Strain Injuries that are often caused by or exacerbated by computer and tech device use:
- Mouse Elbow / Computer Elbow Injury from mouse overuse (likely Tennis / Golfer’s Elbow)
- Tennis Elbow An RSI from tennis, computing and many causes, involving tendons that attach at the lateral / outer elbow
- Golfer’s Elbow An RSI from golf, tennis, computing and many causes, involving tendons that attach at the medial / inner elbow
- Selfie Elbow A Golfer’s or Tennis Elbow-like condition from taking too many “selfies”
- Smartphone Insomnia: Too much stimulating blue light, which prevents falling asleep
- Text Thumb / Gamer’s Thumb: (Often ‘De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis’) from overusing the thumbs typing, swiping or gaming
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A condition marked by nerve entrapment and/or vascular restrictions affecting nerves and blood vessels to the arms and hands