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Mobile Device Users: Beware of Text Neck

While waiting for my chiropractic appointment a few weeks ago, I spent the time - as I often do when I've got a few minutes - responding to emails on my iPhone. Thoroughly engaged in my little mobile device, I was completely unaware of my body and the posture I automatically lapsed in to - back slumped, shoulders curved, head pushed forward and looking down into my lap. Sound familiar? Why was at I the chiropractor in the first place? Yes, don't you know it ... for head and neck pain! Once I was at the adjustment table, the first thing out of my doctor's mouth was "What the heck were you doing over there hunched over your phone like that?"

Although the root of my own issues stem from longer-term injuries, head, neck and back pain cause by mobile devices has significantly increased in recent years. Americans send 2.19 trillion texts annually and spend, on average, about 2.7 hours per day on their smartphones, so there are potentially millions of people suffering from what has been coined "text neck" or "iPosture." Symptoms include headaches, back pain, and achy shoulders.

"When you hold your body in an abnormal position, it can increase stress on the muscles, cause fatigue, muscle spasms and even stress headaches," said Dr. Chris Cornett, orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation. "With every degree of motion to the front or side that you move your head, the stress on your neck is magnified beyond just the weight of the head." It is estimated that this forward-and-down head posture can add up to 30 pounds of extra weight on the upper vertebrae.

Younger people, in particular, are at risk. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 8 to 18-year-olds spend an average of 7.5 hours per day on "entertainment media." "They were born in to this technology; they slump over their electronic devices because that's 'normal' posture for them," said Dr. Sarah Pace.

In fact, I recently had a young woman in her 20s come in with significant neck pain and daily headaches. In response to how long this condition was going on, she replied two months about the time she took on a new job. When asked about the new position, it turned out to be in retail looking up merchandise on an iPad all day long.

Neck pain is just the tip of potential mobile device-related problems. According to a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 53% of mobile phone users experience numbness or neck pain. Another study published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found that 83% of participants noted some hand and neck pain during texting, in addition to other signs of tensions, such as holding their breath and higher heart rates.

Long-term, this can lead to muscle strain, disc herniations, and pinched nerves. Some say it may even flatten or reverse the natural curve of your neck.

Ways to alleviate or avoid text neck

  • Instead of looking down at your device, bring it up to a neutral, eye level. Keep your feet flat on the floor, with your shoulders rolled back and your ears directly over your shoulders. The Text Neck Institute has even created a mobile app for Android device users called the Text Neck Indicator to help keep your device correctly positioned while reading.
  • Use your phone's dictation program if you have one.
  • Take frequent, regular (5, 10, or 15 minute) breaks. Set a timer to remind you if necessary.
  • Support your range of motion with stretching and movements that strengthen your neck, back extensors, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles.
  • Stay hydrated, as it helps ease stress in the body. "Your cervical spine discs, and every other body part, will thank you."


Democrat & Chronicle 2/6/14. Erskine, Haverly. "'Text Neck,' 'iPosture' Caused by Use Of Electronic Devices."
Forbes 6/7/13. Quilter, Deborah. "How Texting Can Give You a Permanent Pain in the Neck."
Science Daily 2/26/13. "Texting Becoming a Pain in the Neck."
iPhone Savior 10/12. Basile, Ray "Are iPhone Users Battling a Text Neck Epidemic?" 9/20/12. Wilson, Jacque. "Your Smartphone is a Pain in the Neck."



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