So what is text neck?

Sep 7, 2016

You may or may be familiar with the term text neck but if like me,  you are slightly tablet and/or smart phone obsessed, you will ,albeit reluctantly, admit that that neck pain, headache or shoulder tension you’ve been struggling with may be due in part to poor posture or overuse.

Who better but that doyen of taste and propriety, the Urban Dictionary, to provide a definition:

‘text neck is the cramp in your neck from too much texting and emailing on your mobile device.’

So just a little cramp?

I’m afraid the Urban Dictionary were a tad economic with their definition. In addition to neck cramp individuals may also experience:

~ Upper back pain – this may range between a chronic nagging sensation to an intense sharp pain or as spasm.

~ Shoulder pain and tightness.

~ Cervico-genic headaches.

~ Neurological symptoms – if a cervical nerve becomes pinched this could lead to pain, pins and needles or numbness that radiates down into the arm and hand.

~ Adopting this slumped position also serves to restrict your normal lung function by up to 30%.

Dr Kenneth Hansraj, an authority on this condition and the Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, has become very concerned and describes it as an epidemic. He has witnessed a marked increased in the number of patients who present to his clinics with this wide spectrum of symptoms. He states that ultimately “when you have such aggressive stressors on the neck, you get wear and tear on the spine,” in some cases this “can develop into tears within the disc, or you can even get a slipped or herniated disc.”

Tom Di Angelis, president of the American Physical Therapy Association‘s Private Practice Section, in an interview on CNN last year said the effect of text neck is similar to bending a finger all the way back and holding it there for about an hour or so.


Whos at risk?

  • text neck

    The rise of the smart phone and tablet.

    # 71% of adults own a smart phone

  • # In 2011 only 2% of all UK households had a tablet. Currently that stands at 54%.
  • # According to OFCOM in average, mobile users spent nearly two hours online each day using a smartphone in March 2015 (1 hour and 54 minutes), compared to just over an hour spent online by laptop and PC users (1 hour and nine minutes).
  • # It estimated that you can add a further 5,000 hours to that total for teenagers.


The Maths

The average head weighs about 5.4 Kg (thats 12 pounds in old money). But as you bend your head and neck forward the actual loading placed on your cervical spine (neck) starts to increase and the further you bend the greater the load.

text neck

Increasing loading on the spine when titling the head forward. Guardian Images










15 degree angle =  27 pounds

30 degrees angle = 40 pounds,

45 degrees angle = 49 pounds

60 degrees angle = 60 pounds.


So if you adopt that 60 degree angle the strain placed on your neck, back and shoulders is 60 pounds (OR 27 Kilograms) OR more worryingly that is also the weight of an eight year child!

So lets recap.

That’s an eight year old child sitting on top of your head for two hours!

Last words to Dr. Hansraj.

Fortunately Dr. Ken Hansraj is not a luddite, “I love technology. I’m not bashing technology in any way” and in a recent article he outlined some quick tips so people could continue to enjoy their smart phones and avoid the pain associated with text neck.

  • * Look down at your device with your eyes. No need to bend your neck.
  • * Exercise: Move your head from left to right several times. Use your hands to provide resistance and push your head against them, first forward and then backward.
  • * Stand in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to strengthen the muscles of good posture.


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If you would like to learn more about text neck or other related ergonomic subjects.

Or if you want learn more about how an Osteopathy assessment and treatment could help you!

Read More

Spine Health

The Washington Post

New York Spine Surgery

The Guardian



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