Many of us are familiar with the association of computer use with neck and shoulder pain, but did you know that neck pain due to smartphones is on the rise? Chronic neck pain has significantly increased, especially in those 20-35 years of age, and smartphone use is considered the culprit. The phrase “Text Neck” has been used to describe this condition. But no matter our ages, we’re accustomed to smartphones being a huge part of our lives and should be conscientious of our body positioning when using them to avoid long-term pain.
The head weighs about 10-12 pounds, so spending hours hunched over a phone puts a lot of strain on the neck. As the head moves forward from the shoulders, the center of gravity changes. This significantly increases pressure on the musculature of the head, neck, and shoulders due to the downward angle and weight of the head. This gravitational demand from the forward head posture, flexed neck, and hunched shoulders can be 3-5 times higher than in a neutral neck posture. The more the head shifts forward, and the longer time spent in a forward head posture, the greater the pressure. Frequent and prolonged flexion of the neck while texting stretches the ligaments that connect the cervical vertebrae to each other, and they eventually become like overstretched rubber bands. This can ultimately lead to arthritic degeneration and abnormal curvature of the cervical spine which may require realignment therapy to correct.
Both one-handed and two-handed texting are associated with asymmetric cervical posture according to a 2018 article in Applied Ergonomics. Prevention is key by practicing good ergonomics while using smartphones and correcting forward head posture! Hold your phone at eye level, while supporting your arms, and take frequent breaks from the phone to walk around.