How To Avoid Developing Text Neck

How To Avoid Developing Text Neck

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It’s not uncommon to walk into a room and see most people’s heads buried in their phones. People are on their phones just about everywhere. Just look at the number of heads that are down even while walking on the sidewalks. The use of smartphones has become an epidemic and not without consequence.

Over the last 10 years, smartphone ownership (in the US) has increased from 35%-85%. It’s estimated that at least 97% of Americans own a cell phone and it should be no surprise that texting is now a regular part of communicating with people. This new change in social behaviour has developed what we now call text neck.

What exactly is “text neck”?

Text neck is a term to describe the condition caused by the prolonged forward position of the head. The muscles in the back of the neck become elongated and the muscles in the front of the neck and chest become short and stiff. It is referred to as text neck because this is the position most people engage in when texting on a phone.

It’s been debated that watching videos or engaging in other activities on your smartphone or tablet doesn’t have the same effect as texting. This is also true for those who work on a computer screen since the position of the head is much different than when texting.

The downward angle of the head multiplies the pressure on the neck

If you’ve ever watched Jerry McGuire you might be under the impression that “The human head weighs 8 pounds!” While that number tends to stick in our brain the average weight of the human head is 10-11 lbs.

Our spine and neck muscles support the weight of our head. When we’re standing or sitting with a level head that’s 10-11 lbs. of pressure. Once we tilt our heads 45-degrees forward, the pressure increases to 50 lbs. When looking down at 60-degree angles or more, our neck is forced to support 60 lbs. of pressure.

This is where the problems begin to happen since the neck was not meant to withstand this pressure over long periods.

The first step to avoiding text neck is to change your habits

Sometimes the simplest solutions are often the most effective. To avoid increasing the pressure on your neck, avoid putting yourself in the text neck pose as much as possible. This can be accomplished by doing all or any one of the following:

  • Lifting the height of your phone or tablet to eye level whenever using it
  • Reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone
  • Using voice-activated texting
  • Taking frequent breaks from texting in the tilted position
  • Staying active with exercises and neck stretches

Exercises to keep your neck healthy

If you haven’t yet experienced the symptoms of text neck, it may just be a matter of maintaining healthy habits to avoid it. Exercise regularly and stretch daily. One way to put the health of your neck on cruise control is to do a little yoga every day.

Some of these exercises you will find in a yoga routine and some are just good for neck strength.

Neck Retraction Exercise (with a lift)

This exercise is also known as a chin tuck exercise, however, in this particular example, we’re going to add a small lift at the end of the motion.

  1. Stand or sit with good posture and make sure your head is level.
  2. You can place your finger on your chin to help you with range.
  3. Without moving your finger or changing the angle of your head, move your chin away from your finger. You should feel your head moving backwards as if you were making a double chin.
  4. Once your head reaches as far back as it can go, lift your head higher by lengthening your neck (without changing the angle-it should remain level) Picture ET’s head lifting straight up as his neck extends.
  5. Relax and return to the position you started in (neutral with a finger on your chin).

This exercise helps to reposition your head to the proper alignment and increases mobility in your spine. You can view this exercise and more neck stretches to get a better idea of what you should look like while doing them.

Exaggerated Nod

Make sure you’re standing or sitting in an upright position.

  1. Maintain good posture while you look up to the ceiling with a closed mouth.
  2. Let your jaw relax and your mouth slowly open as you extend another inch or two
  3. Now close your mouth slowly and you should feel the pull in the front of your neck.

This is an excellent way to counterbalance the effects of the forward-tilted head position. This exercise/stretch increases the mobility of your neck and stretches the tightening muscles in the front of your neck. It also forces your shoulders down and pulls them back, which is the opposite position of the text neck position.

Prone Cobra Stretch

  1. Lie face down on the floor with a rolled-up towel to cushion your forehead.
  2. Lift your hands off the floor and pinch your shoulder blades together.
  3. Lift your head off the floor and hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat 6-10 times.

Since the text neck condition elongates the muscles in the neck, back and shoulders, this pose works on building strength and tightening those areas.

Cat Cow Pose

This is a great way to restore mobility to your spine and increase the range you have with your neck. This exercise is very common in a typical yoga routine.

  1. Get on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your toes on the ground (if you can’t get your toes to stay on the ground don’t worry).
  2. Inhale as you move into cow pose. This is where you drop your pelvis and belly toward the ground and lift your head up. It should feel like you’re poking your butt out).
  3. As you exhale, arch your back like a cat that’s about to attack, drop your head and let your tailbone point towards the ground.
  4. Repeat this cycle 7-10 times.

If you want to check if you’re doing this pose correctly you can view it here.

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way

Some of the habits we develop throughout life can have detrimental effects on our health in the long run. Knowledge is power but not if you don’t apply it!

Maintain an active lifestyle and balance the time you spend texting on your phone. Now that you know what causes text neck, you can take the steps to prevent it from happening to you or reverse it if you’re already feeling its symptoms.

Michael Liougas is the owner of the Global Health Physiotherapy Clinic in Toronto. He has helped thousands of patients restore their health and is focused on providing solutions that help people live pain-free lives.