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:
- Instant or delayed-onset upper back or neck pain when using a handheld device,
- Nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at the end of the day or postural fatigue,
- General shoulder pain and tightness,
- Head forwards of neck posture,
- Intermittent or constant headache made worse when looking down or using the computer.
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
- joint mobilisations
- posture correction exercises
- neck stabilisation exercises
- postural taping techniques
- posture brace
- soft tissue massage
- posture and ergonomic education
- … plus more
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.
Neck Pain Causes
Neck Joint Injuries
Nerve-related / Referred Pain
Neck Pain Treatment
The best treatment for your neck pain is determined entirely by the specific reasons for WHY you are suffering neck pain. Everyone is different, but there are some common similarities.
Your physiotherapist is highly skilled at the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical neck pain and headache. Posture correction is essential, but it does depend upon the availability of enough joint and muscle flexibility to attain a good posture, plus muscle strength and endurance to maintain your proper position. Address any deficit.
We understand that your neck pain may not be solely about stiff or wobbly joints or tight/weak neck muscles. There is a whole gamut of information that your physiotherapist will analyse during your diagnostic consultation and then commence the correction of your problems. They'll also consider other systemic conditions that can cause neck pain, e.g. cancer, and direct you towards the appropriate healthcare practitioner if necessary.
Fortunately, the vast majority of neck pain does come from your neck joints and muscles. Pleasingly, researchers have shown that a combination of neck joint and muscle treatment performed by your physiotherapist and some specific strengthening exercises are an effective way to eliminate your neck pain, stiffness and headaches.
For advice specific to the diagnosis and management of your neck pain, please contact your trusted healthcare practitioner.
Common Neck Pain Treatment Options
If you are in severe neck pain or have a stiff neck, it is best to assess promptly to exclude any red flag conditions such as cancer and then commence the best neck treatment straight away.
Chronic neck pain can be a lingering problem due to habit. Research tells us that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. The sooner you get on top of your neck symptoms, the better your outcome.
Some of the neck pain treatment options available may include the following:
- Bed Rest
- Early Injury Treatment
- Avoid the HARM Factors
- Acupuncture and Dry Needling
- Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
- Soft Tissue Massage
- Heat Packs
- Joint Mobilisation Techniques
- Kinesiology Tape
- Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
- Strength Exercises
- Stretching Exercises
- Supportive Taping & Strapping
- TENS Machine
What's the Best Pillow for Neck Pain?
The correct pillow is also vital. If you are waking through the night or in the morning with a stiff or painful neck, it may be that it's your pillow and not your neck that is the cause.
A neck collar is not recommended for most non-traumatic injuries as the collar encourages muscle weakness. However, in severe neck spasm conditions such as wry neck or whiplash, a collar is often used in the first week to assist with muscle relaxation.
Please ask your physiotherapist for specific advice.
Will A Posture Brace Help Your Neck Pain?
Posture support braces have improved over the years with new designs being very useful in building awareness of what the correct posture is. Bracing or posture taping is excellent for teenagers, the elderly or those using computers.
There are various posture braces available. You can find more information about posture braces via our online shop.
For more advice, please consult your neck physiotherapist.