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TIC Spotlight: Text Neck Syndrome

Text Neck Syndrome may sound like a made up condition or something your mum would tell you when you were young like “getting square eyes from sitting too too close to the TV” But with the increasing use of technology devices in modern life, text neck is in fact a growing and very real lifestyle condition being seen in clinics across the world daily.

The term ‘Text Neck Syndrome’ was coined by American chiropractor Dr. DL Fishman to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive use or time spent on hand held devices such as mobiles, tablets or laptops over a sustained period of time.

With the increased use of mobile technology in a modern working capacity and more people than ever working from home or on the go; There is an even more increased risk of people developing symptoms associated with text neck than ever before.

Not only are our working lives becoming dominated by the use of technology but also our social lives too with an average mobile user spending 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social media in 2020. As shocking as this stat is, the same report found that social media use only equates to 50.1% of the time spent on mobile per day!

To put this use of social media into perspective, the average user thumbs through 300ft. of content every day on their news feed.

It’s not just adults that are at risk either; with the growing use of mobile devices at a much younger age, text neck is a cause for increasing concern amongst children and teenagers with recent figures showing that around 79% teenagers (12-15 years) in UK own and use smartphones daily.

Cause of Text Neck

Flexing the head forward to use a smartphone directly affects the spine. Tilting the head forward even 15 degrees places about 27 pounds of force on the neck. This increases to 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.

Despite the name text neck doesn’t just affect the neck but can also have an adverse impact on other areas of the body leading to shoulder pain, upper back pain, headaches, disturbed vision and increased postural issues to name but a few. Damage caused by untreated text neck and associated symptoms can be similar to that of occupational overuse syndrome or repetitive stress/strain injury.

Symptoms of Text Neck

The most common presentation of Text Neck that we see here in the clinic is stiffness and soreness in the neck and upper back. We often hear clients describe their pain as a dull ache; however in more extreme cases we have also seen people experiencing a sharp or stabbing. These symptoms can be localised to one spot or may be radiating over a larger area, usually lower part of the neck and back of the head; Pain can also radiate to the shoulders and chest leading to muscular weakness as well as sub occipital muscle tightness and tension type headaches.

Treatment of Text Neck

In most cases Text Neck and the associated symptom can be managed and treated by:

  • Sports / Deep Tissue Massage
  • Medical Acupuncture
  • Mobilisations of the neck and spine
  • Strengthening and postural exercises
  • Gentle stretching and mobility
  • Hot or cold treatment (symptom dependant)

In extreme chronic cases pain medication and  facet joint or trigger point injections may be considered.

What Can You Do?

As well as the above treatments activity modification is also an important factor in ridding yourself of and reducing the risk of developing text neck pain. Below is our top advice for changing your technology habits.

  • Raise your phone. Adjust your phone (and other devices) so that the screen is up and closer to eye level so that your head does’t have to be tilted forward.
  • Take frequent breaks. Spend some time away from the phone/laptop. If required, use an alarm or app to set automatic reminders to take breaks.
  • Stand up or sit straight. Good posture is key when spending increased time doing any task. Try tucking your chin in and  bringing your shoulders back.
  • Move regularly– As we’re constant preaching “any one position held for a long period becomes a bad position”. Your spine is built to move in particular your neck area. So make sure you are taking your joints through some movements little and often throughout the day.
  • Exercise regularly. A strong, flexible back and neck are better able to handle the extra stress and time spent on technology devices.

If you know anyone that the information in this article could help, then please feel free to pass it on and share with your family and friends.

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