What is Text Neck?
Text neck is a condition that is caused by looking down at your phone or other electronic device for long periods of time. It can lead to a number of problems, including neck pain, headaches, and even changes in your spine. Text neck is becoming an increasingly common problem as more and more people use electronic devices.
The condition is caused by the weight of your head putting pressure on your neck and shoulders. This can lead to a number of problems, including neck pain, headaches, and even changes in your spine.
As the world becomes increasingly digitized, our necks are bearing the brunt of the consequences. Text neck, or tech neck, is a term used to describe the posture adopted by many when looking down at their electronic devices for long periods of time. This condition is becoming more and more common, as the use of smart phones and other digital devices continues to rise.
Smartphone addiction is real, and it’s a problem that’s only getting worse.
We’re all guilty of it. You’re out to dinner with friends, and instead of engaging in conversation, you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed. Or you’re in a meeting at work, and you can’t resist checking your email.
Our addiction to our smartphones is no joke. A recent study found that the average person checks their phone 46 times a day. And it’s not just young people who are addicted — even baby boomers are doing it.
While the occasional text or email check is unlikely to cause any serious damage, prolonged periods of time spent hunched over can lead to a number of problems. The most common of these is neck pain, which can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. In some cases, this pain can even lead to headaches.
The average person spends four to five hours looking at their smartphone every day. This constant forward tilt of the head can put a lot of strain on the neck and upper back. The weight of the head (about 10-12 pounds) is supported by the muscles and ligaments in the neck. When these muscles and ligaments are constantly overused, they can become strained, leading to pain and stiffness.
Other potential problems associated with tech neck include upper back pain, shoulder pain, and even nerve damage. In severe cases, it can even lead to deformities in the spine.
Forward head posture aka Text Neck is a postural distortion pattern of the head and neck. When your head goes forward into anterior translation or forward flexion the amount of pressure on the neck and shoulders increases.
Did you know that when you bend your neck forward at varying angles the amount of pressure on the neck multiplies? When the head is in a neutral position it weighs approximately 10-12 pounds. When you look down at a 15-degree angle the number of weight increases to 27pounds. The further your head goes forward into flexion, the more pressure there is on the neck.
When you look down at your smartphone at a 60-degree angle, it can add up to 60 pounds of pressure to your neck and shoulders!
You can have a friend check to see if you have Text Neck by performing a simple test. From the side, your ears should be aligned over your shoulders. If your ears are forward in relation to your shoulders, you may be suffering from forward head posture.
Forward head posture can be caused by looking downward with forward flexion for prolonged periods of time like while looking at a smartphone or tablet or reading. It can also be caused by jutting the head forward for prolonged periods of time while viewing a computer screen or sitting with slouched posture.
Research studies show varying percentages of patients presenting with forward head posture. One research study performed in 2020 shows that 73% of university students present with forward head posture (Singh, Kaushal, & Jasrotia, 2020). Other studies show a prevalence of 67% among university students (Ramalingam & Subramaniam, 2019) and 63% among adolescents ages 12 to 16 years of age (Verma et al., 2018).
Symptoms of Text Neck Posture
If you have forward head posture, you may be experiencing these symptoms, or can develop these symptoms later on:
- Neck pain: your neck feels tight or stiff
- Shoulder tightness: your shoulders feel tight, especially after a long day of work
- Headaches: you may experience headaches that can start in your neck and go up to your head
- Migraines: heightened sensitivity combined with poor posture may result in a migraine
- Jaw pain: you may experience clicking of your jaw or pain in the jaw
- Pain down your arm: you may experience pain that radiates from your neck down your arm to your hand
How Can Teck Neck Affect Your Health?
If forward head posture is left uncorrected, it may impact your health in multiple ways. For example, forward head posture may be a contributing factor to these health effects:
- Decreased neck range of motion: neck stiffness with difficulty moving your head to one side or the other.
- Respiratory dysfunction: long-term respiratory dysfunction can result in hyperventilation, mouth breathing, labored chest breathing, and more stress to your body.
- TMJ dysfunction: the temporomandibular joint is the joint in your jaw to open and close your mouth. Forward head posture may impact the position and function of your jaw.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain in your wrist and hand can occur from spending many hours typing while sitting in poor posture. If your head is forward and there is a strain on your wrist it may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Impaired balance: the position of your neck impacts how your body balances upright. With forward head posture your body may have an altered body position sense, called proprioception.
Risk Factors for Text Neck
Forward head posture is due to poor posture habits while performing long or repetitive tasks, such as working at your computer. In many cases forward head posture is caused by a slumped position of the mid-back and shoulders, resulting in anterior carriage of the head.
- Looking downward with forward flexion of the cervical spine for prolonged periods of time (looking at a smartphone or tablet)
- Jutting the head forward for prolonged periods of time while viewing a computer screen
- Reading with the head down or jutting forward
- Poor sleeping posture with the head in neck flexion or anterior translation from too many pillows
- Slumped forward seated posture with a postural hyperkyphosis and resultant forward head posture
Simple switches to your posture habits can help you prevent postural distortion patterns. Focusing on improving your back, neck, and head posture to prevent forward head posture. Forward head Posture aka Text Neck can compromise alignment of the rest of your body.
There are a few things you can do to improve your forward head posture. First, make sure that you're sitting up straight and not slouching. Next, try to avoid looking down at electronic devices for long periods of time. And finally, do some exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles in your neck and upper back.
One of the best things you can do for your posture is to practice good ergonomics. That means making sure that your workstation is set up correctly and that you're using proper posture when you sit or stand.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, make sure that your chair is at the correct height and that your computer screen is at eye level. You might also want to invest in a standing desk or a sit-to-stand desk converter.
When you're standing, make sure that you're not slouching. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head level. If you need to, prop one foot up on a low stool or box.
Reverse the pressure of gravity by going “anti-gravity”
Bring your arms straight out to the sides
Press your chest forward
Drop your head back
Hold for 30 seconds
Perform for 30 seconds every hour of your workday
- Bring Your Smartphone Up to Eye Level
Bring your elbows into your body so your arms are supported
Hold your phone up with your arms supported
Navigate your phone with your device up, not looking down
- Raise Your Computer Monitor
A laptop stand underneath your computer monitor to raise your screen up to eye level. Look forward at your screen instead of slouching your shoulders and allowing your head to translate forward
Postural correction treatment plans consist of 3 primary components: (1) Spinal Alignment (2) Posture Rehabilitation and (3) Posture Habit Re-Education.
The spinal alignment will help realign the spine and hips. If one part of your back or hips is out of alignment, it can impact the alignment of the rest of your body. Safe techniques of spinal alignment will ensure proper alignment.
Posture rehabilitation targets the muscles and soft tissues to maintain proper posture. Posture rehabilitation includes alignment exercises, balance exercises, core control, and stretching tight muscles, and strengthening weak postural muscles.
Posture habit re-education is having better postural alignment while performing activities of daily living. For example, keeping your head up and shoulders back while on your devices.
This comprehensive program of postural correction will help you achieve a posture transformation to look better, move better, and feel better.
Burns, K. (2021) Forward Head Posture, American Posture Institute Blog
Ramalingam, V., & Subramaniam, A. (2019). Prevalence and associated risk factors of forward head posture among university students. SCOPUS IJPHRD CITATION SCORE, 10(7), 775.
Singh S, Kaushal K, Jasrotia S. Prevalence of forward head posture and its impact on the activity of daily living among students of Adesh University – A cross-sectional study. Adesh Univ J Med Sci Res 2020;2(2):99-102.
Verma, S. L., Shaikh, J., Mahato, R. K., & Sheth, M. S. (2018). Prevalence of forward head posture among 12-16 year old school going students: A cross sectional study. Applied Medical Research, 4(2), 18-21.
About Michael Jones
Michael Jones, CErg. He's an Ergonomist and Speaker with 15 years of experience helping desk workers who are hunched over their computers and phone for hours, reverse their slouched posture and end text neck pain.