ATLAS Health Tips
April 3, 2024

Is Text Neck Causing Me Back Pain?

ATLAS Team
by
ATLAS Team
text neck and back pain

Have you ever entered a train where everyone has their head down, peering into their phones? This is a common sight in Hong Kong, and is an illustration of an emerging health concern: "text neck." This term refers to the strain on our necks from the forward head posture we often adopt while using our devices.

At ATLAS, we are not just a chiropractic studio; we are dedicated partners in your journey to holistic well-being. Yes, we can help alleviate your immediate pain, whether it’s aching backs or rounded shoulders, but we believe in providing comprehensive care by delving into the root causes. We work with you through a combination of chiropractic care, and lifestyle and habit upgrades, empowering you to take control of your health.

So let’s dive into the impacts of text neck and how you can address the issue.

What is ‘Text Neck’ and how does it affect me?

Bending your head to look at your phone strains the vertebrae and tissues in your neck, which may lead to chronic pain. This condition, known as "text neck," can occur not just from texting, but from using any digital device or engaging in activities that involve prolonged head bending. The neck supports the head's weight in an upright position. Bending the head at a 45- to 60-degree angle puts 50 to 60 pounds of stress on the neck, as opposed to the usual 10.

Source: www.beechborophysiotherapy.com.au

Text neck' can affect anyone and may cause symptoms after just a few hours of keeping the head bent while texting or working. Symptoms include:

  • Neck Pain
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Muscle Stiffness and Spasms in the Neck, Shoulder, and Back Muscles
  • Pain Between the Shoulder Blades or in the Back, Jaw, Arm, or Hand
  • Numbness and Tingling in the Arm and Hand
  • Posture Changes and Balance Problems

'Text neck' can lead to stress and strain, damaging the cushioning discs in your neck and back. This can cause bulging or ruptured discs, leading to pinched nerves and symptoms such as pain, tingling in the hand and fingers, and muscle weakness. Subluxation, or misaligned vertebrae due to neck strain, can also cause pinched nerves, resulting in spinal misalignments and pain.

If left untreated, 'text neck' can have severe long-term implications. Chronic pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis are possible outcomes. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for maintaining neck health.

So, how can we address this issue?

There isn’t a fix-it-all solution to this problem, it will require a combination of lifestyle modifications, behaviour changes and additional support

Here are some strategies to help prevent tech neck:

The Nipple Rule:

Breaking old habits, like holding your phone down, can be challenging. That's why at ATLAS, we've developed a straightforward guideline: The Nipple Rule.

This rule is simple: always hold your phone above your nipple line. Doing so encourages a more neutral head posture, reducing strain on your spine and nervous system. This may feel uncomfortable at first because it requires using your arm muscles more than usual. However, fatigue can occur from maintaining any position for an extended period. So, the solution is to hold your phone in one hand, above the nipple line, and prop up your arm using the opposite hand under your phone-side armpit.

Regular Stretching & Neck Strengthening Exercises:

Stretching and neck-strengthening exercises can help reduce neck pain. They enhance flexibility and range of motion in the neck and shoulders while strengthening the supporting muscles. Here are certain exercises that can help you:

1. Chin Tucks

Chin tucks are exercises that help correct forward neck posture, often caused by leaning towards a screen. They improve posture by moving the head closer to a neutral position, aligning the ears directly over the shoulders. Here is how to do them:

  • Begin by sitting or standing upright. Fix your gaze on a specific point across the room.
  • Put your index finger on your chin, to guide your movement.
  • Gently move your head straight back, tucking your chin against against your neck without your nose pointing down. This movement should create a double chin while you maintain your gaze straight ahead. Ensure your head doesn't tilt downwards.
  • Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.

2. Neck mobility exercises

To prevent your neck from staying in a flexed position for too long, it may be beneficial to regularly move your neck.

  • Sit upright on a chair or stand comfortably, ensuring your shoulders are relaxed.
  • Move your head within a comfortable, pain-free range:
    • Look down.
    • Look up towards the ceiling, bending your neck backwards.
    • Rotate your head to the right and left.
    • Tilt your head to the right and left.
    • Have you ever entered a train where everyone has their head down, peering into their phones? This is a common sight in Hong Kong, and is an illustration of an emerging health concern: "text neck." This term refers to the strain on our necks from the forward head posture we often adopt while using our devices.

3. Shoulder Scapular Squeeze

This exercise aids in opening up your chest and activating some of your shoulder blade muscles.

  • Start by either sitting or standing with your hands clasped behind your head or lower back.
  • Open your elbows out to the side and pull your shoulder blades back to feel a stretch in the front of your chest.
  • To intensify the stretch, draw your head and shoulders down and backward while maintaining forward gaze. Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Hold this position for 10-20 seconds, then slowly release. Repeat this process three times.

4. Trap Stretches

This exercise aids in relieving tension in the trapezius muscles. These muscles extend across the back of the neck and shoulders and are responsible for moving, rotating your shoulder blade, and extending your neck.

  • Sit straight and place your left hand under your left thigh, between your thigh and the chair, to keep your left shoulder from lifting.
  • Raise your right arm, put it on the top of your head and gently tilt your head to the right. Ensure your left shoulder doesn't rise as you tilt your head to the right.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Perform the same exercise on the opposite side. Repeat it three times on each side, even if you only experience pain on one side.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is highly effective in treating Text Neck. Chiropractors specialize in correcting misalignments in the neck and spine. After conducting physical examinations, they often use X-Rays to identify any problems caused by Text Neck and assess the severity of the condition. Based on these findings, a treatment plan is designed to correct the issue, alleviate symptoms, and restore nerve function. The chiropractor may use spinal manipulations, stretches, and exercises to alleviate pain and misalignments, as well as strengthen weakened muscles. Besides physical treatment, they can also provide advice on how to prevent a recurrence of the same habits after treatment.

FAQ

Q1: What is 'Text Neck'?
Text Neck is a condition caused by bending the head forward for prolonged periods while using a mobile device, leading to strain and discomfort in the neck.

Q2: What are the symptoms of 'Text Neck'?
Symptoms may include neck pain, frequent headaches, muscle stiffness, pain between the shoulder blades or in the back, jaw, arm, or hand, numbness and tingling in the arm and hand, as well as posture changes and balance problems.

Q3: How can I prevent 'Text Neck'?
Preventing 'Text Neck' involves a combination of lifestyle modifications and behavior changes, such as maintaining good posture while using mobile devices, holding your phone above your nipple line, and regular stretching and neck strengthening exercises.

Q4: How can chiropractic care help with 'Text Neck'?
Chiropractic care can be highly effective in treating 'Text Neck.' Chiropractors specialize in correcting misalignments in the neck and spine, and can provide a treatment plan to correct the issue, alleviate symptoms, and restore nerve function.

Q5: What if I ignore 'Text Neck'?
Ignoring 'Text Neck' can lead to chronic pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for maintaining neck health.

Conclusion

We understand that it's unlikely for people to completely stop using or looking down at their devices. However, 'text neck' can notably affect our health and result in long-term complications. Thus, it's crucial to understand how texting and electronic device usage can contribute to poor posture and discomfort. We should aim to maintain good posture while using technology and incorporate exercises to help mitigate the effects. Early awareness and prevention are key, and if necessary, chiropractic treatment should be sought to combat 'text neck'.

References

https://www.beechborophysiotherapy.com.au/what-the-heck-is-text-neck

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