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How to Treat and Prevent 'Text Neck': Advice From a Physio

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Most of us are aware of the importance of reducing screen time to improve sleep and mental wellbeing. We know that too much exposure can have a negative effect on our mental health, making us more anxious and stressed - but have you considered the effect your smartphone might be having on your body? If you’ve ever suffered from lingering pain and soreness at the back of your neck that won’t seem to go away, read on to find out how the two might be related, and what you can do to prevent texting-related neck pain.

What is ‘text neck’?

‘Text neck’ is a repetitive strain injury caused by the head being tilted forwards and downwards for extended periods of time. This position is often adopted while holding a phone and texting, but don’t think you’re immune just because you prefer phone calls! Text neck can also be caused by browsing the internet, gaming, using a tablet, and even reading. This downward-facing posture puts excessive strain on the muscles in the back of your neck and across your shoulders and can cause both acute and chronic neck pain as well as headaches.

The main symptoms of text neck are soreness and stiffness in the back of the neck (which may radiate into the shoulders and arms), muscle weakness and headaches.

Being a London-based practice, our team of physiotherapists at our Camden clinic have seen this condition more and more frequently, as for many Londoners long tube commutes can mean hours of staring at their phones to pass the time.

Why should you avoid texting-related neck pain?

Most people have experienced some discomfort in the back of their neck after staring at their phones for too long. Usually this will go away once they change positions, but if chronic tension is left untreated, it can lead to more serious health issues such as inflammation of neck ligaments and postural imbalances caused by increased curvature of the spine. When your head is tilted forwards, this greatly increases the amount of weight bearing down on the spine.

How to prevent text neck

When it comes to repetitive strain injuries, prevention is the best cure. While the best treatment is to reduce the amount of time spent on your phone, this may not be the easiest solution, as many of us rely on our phones for work and other things. However, altering the way you use your phone and building healthier postural habits can help to achieve long-term relief.

Here’s some advice from our resident physiotherapists on avoiding texting-related neck pain:

  • When sitting or standing upright, your ears should align with the centre of your shoulders. This evenly distributes the weight of your head across your neck and shoulder muscles. Maintaining good posture throughout the day (even when you’re not on your phone) will help you avoid putting any additional strain on already-stressed ligaments and tendons

  • Set dedicated times for checking and responding to messages and emails, so that you aren’t constantly picking up your phone

  • Answer emails on your laptop or PC rather than your phone

  • Consider using the dictate, or voice message function on your phone to send messages

  • Take frequent breaks: this a great opportunity to do some gentle neck stretches that will arch your neck and upper back

  • Raise your phone to eye level so that you’re looking forwards, rather than downwards. Try to alter your posture every so often to stop your neck being in one static position for extended periods of time

Changing habits can be tricky, especially when you try to make too many changes at once, so why not try implementing one of the above tips per week? Once you feel like you’ve integrated one, add the next one to your routine. Developing an awareness of your postural habits can take time, but your wellbeing and spinal health are worth it!

If you’re already suffering from text neck or other repetitive strain injuries, our team of experienced physiotherapists in Camden can help you with exercises that will counteract the strain on muscles and ligaments, as well as giving tailored advice on your posture. Book online to tackle your neck pain once and for all.

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