Do you know what your neck looks like when you’re scrolling through your phone? If I had to venture a guess, I would say it is probably at some sort of an angle, positioned downward to better stare at your device. This phenomenon is leading to more and more cases of “text neck” as I like to call it – which is stiffness and pain in your neck (and upper back) due to increased, chronic straining (AKA scrolling through news feeds, email, websites, etc across all of our super convenient devices).
I know that I’m not immune to this problem! Practically every day I catch myself tilting my head in some weird way while absorbed in something on my screen. Today, it’s a normal and common problem, but it shouldn’t be something we all just accept as appropriate and healthy posture. All evidence points to this sort of posture creating really problematic stressors and strains on the spine. Over time, this can only lead to problems and pain. Consistency and commitment to taking care of your neck is key, as is adjusting your posture when you are on your smartphone or other devices.
In a study conducted by Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, it was found that as the head tilts forward the force place on the neck dramatically increases. When we hold our head in a healthy, neutral position, the forces to the cervical spine are about 10-12 pounds and evenly distributed, which is normal. But as we tilt our head forward the force increases:
Repetitive forward head posture and frequently hanging your head may lead to all sorts of neck problems, including early wear and tear, degeneration, nerve root impingement, herniation/bulges, and possibly the need for surgery. Imagine having a consistent force on your cervical spine that is the equivalent of 30-60 lbs? The results from that long term force cannot be good for anyone.
This graph from the study described above shows the effects of the tilt that accompanies cell phone use.
Be sure to use these best practices to decrease the strain you are putting on your neck and spine:
1. Be aware of your head and position.
As shown above, even just a slight tilt away from a neutral spine practically doubles the force your cervical spine is feeling. Good posture isn’t just “shoulders back,” in this day and age we all need to be sure we are keeping our chins away from our chest and maintaining a healthy, neutral spine.
2. Use simple neck stretches throughout the day.
Even just gentle, slow, alternating ear to shoulder movements can stretch each side of your neck to prevent stiffness and cramping. This is even useful for those of you sitting in desks and around conference tables during the workday. Or students in lecture halls and classrooms! Just as you might get the urge to stretch your legs, be sure you are giving your neck some much needed time for gentle stretching throughout the day.
3. Practice yoga poses that target neck and shoulder mobility.
Naturally, as a yoga teacher, I am a huge proponent of yoga (shout out to my Yoga Prehab™ tribe!). But only because it actually works.
In today’s busy world, I find that the countless clients I have worked with over the years really do have time to invest in their health and well being, even if that means just practicing a few minutes of yoga per day.
My favorite poses (asanas) to target problematic neck and shoulder stiffness are the much-beloved downward facing dog and the ever-popular, super stretchy cat-cow. These help to stretch out and relax the neck, shoulders and even provide tension relief for both your upper and lower back.
Pop into these even just for a few minutes when you feel that text neck tension creeping up on ya’ – bye text neck!
For a proven method to release, stretch, and strengthen these problem areas and heal from “text neck” once and for all, check out my course The Text Neck Fix. Better to spend a few minutes a day with me, than to need weeks of expensive rehab for nerve damage, disc issues, or other neck, shoulder, and cervical spine-related issues.
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