How many times a day do you find yourself looking down on your phone? Too often?
If so, you may be at risk for a repetitive strain injury known as text neck. To say that this condition is modern is saying the least. The ubiquity of smartphones today has given rise to it and has affected more and more people. Based on a survey, 7 out of 10 Canadians use a smartphone to access the internet.
Causes of a Text Neck
As the name implies, the main cause is excessive time spent looking down on your phone. When you hung your head forward, the weight of your head increases hence the force placed on the neck also increases. Your muscles, joints, and ligaments become stressed as they work harder together to hold your head in such a precarious angle.
This condition is also known as turtle neck posture or anterior head syndrome.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
The unstable position that the neck assumes when you look down on your phone results in tension in the deep muscles of the neck and shoulders. You know you are developing text neck if you experience the following:
- Pain in the neck and shoulders when using your smartphone. The pain can be a dull ache, searing pain, or radiating.
- Stiffness also happens when it becomes difficult to move your neck.
- Tightness in the shoulder muscles.
- Head forward posture and misalignment with the neck and shoulders.
- Tension-like headaches.
If left untreated, text neck can become a precursor to more serious conditions like arthritis, curvature of the spine, disc compression, and muscle weakness. You may also develop an upper thoracic postural abnormality known as the dowager’s hump.
Make These Exercises A Habit!
Stop the habit of constantly looking down your phone. Start a new one.
Let’s get started with these easy exercises.
- Sit or stand straight with your shoulders and jaw relaxed with your mouth closed. Next, look up to the ceiling and open your mouth. Lean back a bit further and close your mouth. Do this mouth exercise a few more times and feel the stretch in your neck.
- Sit straight on a chair and look forward. Keep your head still as you slowly bring your chin to your neck as if you are tucking it in. Then elongate your neck by pushing your head away while keeping your jaw relaxed. Hold it for a few seconds, release your chin, then repeat a few more times.
- Stand barefoot with your feet hip-wide apart. Bend your knees and place your hands, palm face up, underneath your toes. Place them to fit into wrist creases and press into your palm with your feet. Relax your head and hold this position for a few seconds.
While these exercises can help relieve the tension on your neck and shoulders, it’s still very important to manage your screen time, or at the very least, modify your posture when looking down on your phone.
If the pain continues or worsens after these text neck exercises and lifestyle change, do not delay visiting a physiotherapist to help you address your condition and design a custom treatment plan.