Tips & Articles

“Text Neck”: Impact of Cell Phones on our Spines

Chances are high that you are reading this on your cell phone.  And if you look around, there are probably also a few people around you with their eyes glued to a device, watching some app, article, or funny video on their phone.  Seeing people with their head tilted forward, hand cradling a 5”+ device is a common scene now– common enough to warm it’s own name: ‘Text Neck’. 

How bad is it?

An average head weighs 10-12 lbs.  With good posture, this 10-12lb force aligns straight down and is supported by your neck and spine, as they were built to do.  However, as the head starts tilting forward and angling down into the ‘text neck posture’, the weight on the neck increases 2-3x.  Imagine holding a 30lb dumbbell with your neck for the length of a funny cat video, or responding to your bosses last minute email request. Not fun.  

Limit the stress

To minimize the damage and stress from text neck, first be aware of your posture and conscious of your position at all times.  As much as possible, keep screens at 90 degrees to your eyes.  This includes your monitors at work as well.  

Take frequent, 10-20 minute breaks between sessions, allowing your neck (and the rest of your body) enough time to stretch and recover.  

Strengthen the core and neck muscles that support your head with targeted exercises that are also great for your body.   Examples include neck rotation exercises and axial retraction exercises. Don’t worry, check out how in the next paragraphs.

Neck rotation exercises

Slowly rotate your head in a counterclockwise position by slowly bringing your head forward as far as you can make sure to not be in a painful position and rotating your neck through all planes of motion until you are back to your starting position again. From your starting position back to your ending position should take 10 seconds, so make sure to do it nice and slowly. I even provided a picture below for some additional instruction.

neck rotation example for text neck

Axial retraction exercise

From a neutral forward facing position slowly tuck your chin in so that your chin comes as close as possible to the front of your neck.  From this position reach up with either hand and put gentle pressure on your chin helping to assist your chin to get it as close as possible to the center of your neck.  You should start to feel a slight stretch in the upper part of your neck.  Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.

axial retraction example for text neck

Neck strengthening exercises

As you see in the diagram below, use your hands to apply equal pressure in all four directions so that you are adding resistance with your hands as you use your neck muscles to push in each particular direction. These are called Isometric Contractions and will help strengthen your neck muscles while limiting chance of injuries since there is no actual movement being performed. Hold each contraction for 2 seconds and perform 10 contractions in each direction to complete 1 set.

neck strengthening example for text neck

Do these exercises a few times a week.  This is not a fix all for everyone but may help reduce some muscle tension caused by staring at your phone all day.

For a more custom or comprehensive treatment plan, contact your local chiropractor or physical therapist to craft a custom treatment plan.


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