Prevent Text Neck

Prevent Text Neck

We may love our mobile devices, but our necks and spines don’t. Worldwide, people spend an increasingly large portion of every day hunched over their devices texting, emailing, scrolling, and surfing. You may be spending more time looking at your phone than you think. A group of college-aged U.S. students in one study spent five hours a day using their smartphones, a third of their waking hours and nearly twice the amount of time they’d estimated.

Experts warn that too much time on mobile devices can spell big trouble for our bodies. Keep reading to learn about an increasingly common and potentially painful ailment known as “text neck,” and how to prevent or correct it.

Mobile Phone Usage - Prevent Text Neck

The Trouble with Texting

The amount of time we spend on mobile devices is part of a larger problem, which is sedentary living. A body of research suggests we weren’t designed to stay still for long periods. However, most of us move very little – 80 percent of Americans don’t get the moderate amount of physical activity recommended by the government (which is equivalent to five 30-minute walks a week).

Our bodies suffer when we stay in the same position for long periods, whether that position is sitting in front of a television, working at a computer, or reading. Staring at a phone at waist height may be particularly damaging. Research conducted by Kenneth K. Hansraj, chief of spinal surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation, suggests that holding the weight of the 10-pound head in front of the body puts an extreme amount of pressure on the neck. According to Hansraj, bending the neck at 45 degrees, as many people do when they’re texting, is like holding a 49-pound child.

Many of our bodies are suffering. Nearly a third of Americans are inflicted with chronic pain. More than half of American workers in a large survey reported having had a headache, back pain, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal pain in the two weeks prior. We’ve come to accept tension headaches, tight and painful necks and shoulders, lower back pain, and other musculoskeletal issues as normal, but we may be able to prevent many of these issues by being more mindful about how we’re moving (or not moving).

Your Body on Text - Prevent Text Neck

Developing Mobile Mindfulness

If you’ve ever glanced down at your phone then looked back up an hour later, you’re hardly alone. Mobile devices give us instant access to our friends and the larger world, and they’re captivating and addictive. But if you want to prevent or correct musculoskeletal issues, the first step is being more aware of how you’re moving, and that means you need to be aware of how you’re using a device in the first place.

Try these strategies to become more mindful about your use of mobile devices:

  • Install a screen-time tracking app to see how often you’re using your devices.
  • Decide how and when you want to use your devices.
  • Turn off the notifications on your apps, so you’re not constantly tempted to check them.
  • Designate some places or occasions, such as the dinner table, a day of the week, or a daily walk, as “screen free.”

Do You Have Text Neck? - Prevent Text Neck

Moving Better, Feeling Better

Once you’re more aware of when and how often you’re using your devices, use these ergonomic strategies to reduce the strain on your body:

  • Bring the device to just below eye level and a comfortable distance away from you.
  • Increase the text size to reduce eye strain.
  • Download an app that automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen based on the time of day, to further reduce eye strain.
  • Regularly switch which hand you use to hold the device.
  • Use a headset and voice commands when possible, instead of texting.
  • Take frequent breaks when looking at any screen; move your body and look at something far away.

Correcting the Damage

Our technology may be new, but sedentary work is not. The ancient movement practices of yoga and qigong were developed to help people sit for long periods (in meditation) without pain. These practices help build awareness, strength, and flexibility, and emphasize proper alignment. They may help correct and prevent the damage from using mobile devices. If a movement practice such as yoga doesn’t appeal to you, simple exercises may help strengthen the neck and reset the body’s natural alignment.

Straighten and Strengthen Your Neck - Prevent Text Neck

Mobile devices aren’t going anywhere (and most people wouldn’t want them to), but it may be time to change the way you use them to improve your health, mobility, and vitality.


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