What is Text Neck?
Text Neck is an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding your head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. When holding your head in this position, excessive amounts of tension are created in the deep muscles of your neck and across the shoulders causing both acute and chronic neck pain. Chronic cervicogenic headaches have also been linked to this condition.
The increased prevalence of these pains is due to the increasing popularity and hours people spend on handheld devices such as smartphones, e-readers, iPads and tablets.
What Exactly Causes Text Neck?
When in an upright posture, when the ears are aligned with the centre of your shoulders, the weight of the average head exerts approximately 4.5 to 5.5 kgs of force through the muscles of the neck. But when your head is moved forward by only 2 to 3 cms away from this neutral position, the weight of your head dramatically increases. Approximately 6 times as much force can be generated!!! That's approximately 30kg - the same weight as an average 8-year-old, or 6 ten-pin bowling balls!!!
If left untreated, a 'text neck' can lead to the inflammation of the neck ligaments, nerve irritation and increased curvature in the spine. It can also develop an upper thoracic postural deformity known as a "dowagers" hump, which can result in alteration of the bone structure of your vertebrae in this region.
Signs and Symptoms of Text Neck
Text neck may have one or more of these signs and symptoms:
Text Neck Treatment
Text neck is conservatively managed by your physiotherapist. The main aims of treatment are to reduce the tension within the neck muscles, reduce the pain within your neck and address the postures that aggravate your symptoms. This will normally involve postural awareness and strengthening exercises to correct for the future and prevent a recurrence.
After your physiotherapist has assessed your lifestyle, posture and your neck structures they will confirm the main issues causing your neck pain. They will utilise a range of treatments including
PHASE I - Reducing Pain & Inflammation
Pain and inflammation are strong inhibitors of normal muscle and joint movement. Pain is the main reason people seek treatment, and should be the first symptom to improve!
PHASE II - Restoring Normal ROM and Strength
As your pain settles, your physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring your normal joint alignment and range of motion, including muscle length and resting tension, muscle strength and endurance. Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle recruitment pattern and prescribe the best exercises specific to your needs. They may also start you on a deep neck flexor and scapular/upper thoracic spine strengthening program to facilitate dynamic control of your neck and head.
Your physiotherapist may also recommend a stretching program or a remedial massage to address your tight or shortened muscles. Please ask your physiotherapist for their advice specific to your needs.
PHASE III - Restore Full Function
Depending on your lifestyle your physiotherapist will tailor your rehabilitation to allow you to return to your desired activities. Everyone has different demands that will determine what specific treatment goals you need to achieve.
PHASE IV - Preventing a Recurrence
Your physiotherapist will assist you in identifying the best way to restore and maintain good posture by providing you with posture awareness prompts, taping, posture fatigue braces and exercises for you to monitor your own progress indefinitely.
Some liniments and creams, such as Fisiocrem or Flexall, can provide temporary muscular pain relief by rubbing the cream into the neck, shoulder or arm. For more information please consult your physiotherapist, pharmacist or doctor.
Text Neck Related Conditions
Text Neck Treatment Options
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