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How our phones cause neck pain

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 11.44.24 amReading this on your phone???

There’s a very good chance that your neck is bent forward and down as you look at the screen.  “Text neck” is the term used by Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, Physiotherapists, and Specialists across the globe to describe the painful postural syndrome whereby the neck is strained by constantly looking down at one’s phone.

84% of people worldwide are addicted to smartphones and 81% of smartphone users have their mobile phone switched on all of the time even when they are in bed or in the bathroom (1).   According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, the average person spends 2-4 hrs per day with their neck bent in this unnatural forward position.  For teenagers, this increases to six to eight hours per day!  In addition to headaches, neck and back pain, text neck and poor posture have also been linked to digestive problems, a reduction in lung capacity by up to 30 percent, and the increased risk of heart disease and neurological issues (2).

Dr Tan Kian Hian, director at the Pain Management Centre Singapore General Hospital  explains:  “If left untreated, a ‘text neck’ can lead to the inflammation of the neck muscles, ligaments and nerves, permanent arthritic damage, as well as increased curvature in the spine.  This is very prevalent in our new generation of young adults who are constantly connected to their mobile devices, even while walking.” (3)    Furthermore, with children accessing phones earlier, Dr Lanman a world renowned spine surgeon warns “in kids who have spines that are still growing and undeveloped, we’re not sure what to expect or if this could change normal anatomies.” (4)

Dr Lanman in his 2017 study on text neck describes how looking down at a phone for regular periods can potentially cause serious damage to the neck. The recent study “urges parents to reduce the time their kids spend on mobile phones. There has been an increase in the number of patients with neck, disk hernias and alignment problems mainly due to prolonged use of smartphones.”  The mechanism behind this is due to an increase in the weight of one’s head in a forward head posture.  The average person’s head weighs around 5kg in normal posture, but can increase to a staggering 27 kg, five times the normal weight of the head, depending on how far forward the head is bent forward. (4)

How to avoid bad posture from looking at your phone

There are some simple steps to reduce the likelihood of causing neck problems from the excessive use of your mobile phone:

  • Make an active effort to use your phone more productively (limit games).
  • Take frequent breaks: A “text neck” is an accumulated injury over time – prevention begins by taking breaks from your mobile device every 15 minutes, stretching the neck by looking up and bringing the neck back into the neutral position. Alternatively, hold your mobile device higher so that it’s aligned with your eyes, rather than at your chest and your neck muscles do not fatigue.
  • Use an ergonomically efficient computer or laptop for more regular browsing.
  • A more practical recommendation would be frequent rest breaks or some physical exercise that can strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Get checked by your Chiropractor or health care professional to address any current underlying (even possibly unknown) spinal issues and postural deformities.

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1. Assessment of Smartphone Addiction in Indian Adolescents: A Mixed Method Study by Systematic-review and Meta-analysis Approach, International Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2014

2.  Hansraj. KK (2014) Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the headSee comment in PubMed Commons belowSurgical Technology Int.  Nov; 25:277-9.

3.  accessed September 25th 2017

3. Lanman T., et al (2017) “Text Neck”: an epidemic of the modern 


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