Text neck syndrome is a name to describe the headache, neck pain, and shoulder ache that result from the extra strain from looking down at a handheld device for long periods of time.
And those are just the short term effects. In the long term, head forward position for any reason overworks the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders and can lead to a permanently hunched spine, tight muscles of the chest and decreased lung capacity. To make matters worse, often your lower back will follow your neck and slump forward because your neck does.
You don’t need a protractor to measure the angle of forward bending at the neck indicated in the photo above. For every inch that your head moves forward, your neck registers a ten pound increase in the weight of your head.
It’s better to let the large muscles of your body do most of the work. When your head is not directly above your body’s centre of gravity, your neck carries more of its weight. Texting on your handheld device with your neck bent forward just 30 degrees feels like you are carrying a three year old child on your shoulders.
The dangers of texting are insidious and like all ergonomic damage, cumulative. We don’t notice the damage as it’s happening. And most of us spend a lot more time texting than the time we would agree to carry around a three year old.
Take the text neck challenge:
To see how much you are straining the muscles of your neck when you text, take the plumb line test. A plumb line starting at the ceiling and running through your standing profile with your arms at your sides should go through the top of your head, the middle of your ear, your shoulder, your hip bones, your knee and the arch of your foot. In this neutral position, your neck registers your head’s weight at between ten and twelve pounds.
Now see what happens when you drop your chin to text on a handheld device.
Texting on your handheld device with your neck bent forward just 30 degrees feels like you are carrying a three year old child on your shoulders.
Prevention is the best cure
If you’re not willing or able to change your posture, at least start to increase your awareness of your habits and set some limits for yourself.
Six things you can do about text neck today:
- Get a text neck app for your phone that registers when your phone is held at an unacceptable viewing angle.
- Use a cell phone holder to change the viewing angle on your desk.
- Consider putting your texting apps on your computer to avoid using a handheld device to text when you are sitting at your desk.
- Hold your phone up to your eyes rather than dropping your eyes down to your phone.
- Regularly stretch the muscles of your neck and shoulders.
- Take frequent breaks from your phone.
Clearly, texting is here to stay. Let a change in your habits be the first step to preventing repetitive strain injury in the muscles of your neck, shoulders and back.