Signs of “Texting Neck”

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The seven bones the make up your neck and its supporting joints, discs, and soft tissues can be affected by many things, including how you sleep and your posture while you are awake. If one of things you do while awake is glance down at the screen on a mobile device, your neck pain may be due to what's termed "texting neck," an overuse injury causing by holding your head in a downward position for long periods of time.

What Causes Text-Related Neck Pain?

Your head weighs about 10-12 pounds when its properly aligned. But when you bend it down, it can generate about six-times as much force. This added strain on your neck and its supporting structures from moving your head forward and down is what results in noticeable pain.

How Can You Tell If You Have Texting Neck?

Nagging or sharp pain in your neck and shoulders is a common sign of texting neck. You may also notice upper back pain that gets to the point where it's chronic (lasting longer than 3-4 months) and discomfort getting worse when you hold your head down to check or send messages.

Some people report having intermittent or constant headaches that seem to get worse when looking downward. If a nerve in your neck is compressed, you may experience cervical radiculopathy (pain felt beyond its source) extending to your arms and hands.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

Massage therapy and exercises that stretch and strengthen your neck muscles may ease your pain. You may also benefit from the use of anti-inflammatory medications, posture correction exercises, and manual adjustments. Surgery is rarely necessary or recommended since pain from texting neck is often related to some type of soft tissue damage and/or nerve pressure that can be treated with non-surgically.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Nearly 80 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 44 only spend about 2 hours of their waking day without their cellphone, according to one study on mobile device use. While it may not be practical to give up using your device, what you can do is take the following steps to minimize neck stress while using your phone or a similar device:

  • Keep your phone/device at eye level as much as possible
  • Take "tech breaks" throughout your day to get up and walk around device free
  • For any work-related device use, have your laptop/device directly in front of you, not off to the side

If you suspect your neck pain may be related to your texting or mobile device habits, make an effort to improve your posture while using your devices. See your doctor if discomfort you're experiencing doesn't go away after some rest or the application of heat or ice. You may be referred to a spine care doctor if your pain still isn't going away after other treatment attempts, or if symptoms are getting worse.