Text neck syndrome is a modern affliction – you wouldn’t have ever heard your grandmother complain about it, but now it seems everywhere. You might have also heard text neck being called iHunch, or forward head posture (FHP), and it’s a type of repetitive strain injury that’s been occurring increasingly since the 1990s when we spend a lot of time hunching over our electronic devices.
When we have perfect posture, our heads are balanced well over our shoulders, but text neck causes us to hunch forward, causing alignment issues in our spine and surrounding muscles.
Text neck syndrome can undoubtedly be uncomfortable, and potentially painful, but did you know it can also make you stupider and more clumsy?
The good news is, tech neck can be treated, and you can get relief from discomfort, and from the associated cognitive decline.
What causes text neck syndrome?
The clue to what causes text neck syndrome is really in the name. The rise of technology – particularly hand-held technology – and our increasing reliance on it is causing us to sit more than we ever have in human history, and to bend our necks forward as we look down at our screens.
Even in the past few years, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to embrace working from home and an endless stream of Zoom meetings, the incidences of tech neck have skyrocketed.
Australians now spend an average of 5.5 hours a day on their phones, and many of us also use laptops for our work. Laptops are often an ergonomic challenge, set too low for us to be looking at a screen at natural eye height, so we can spend hours each day looking downwards.
That’s a lot of time bending your neck. And just 60 degrees of neck flexion can add around 27 kilograms of weight to the lower neck, increasing its curvature and placing pressure on your spine.
What are the symptoms of text neck?
How do you know you’ve got text neck? You might start to notice some subtle signs at first, which can build into more serious symptoms that can be harder to reverse.
These early signs include:
– neck, upper back and/or shoulder pain
– rounded shoulders and a forward head posture
– tightness and reduced mobility in the neck, upper back, and shoulders
– headaches from muscle strain in your neck
– increased pain when looking down.
If left untreated, and if you don’t make changes to the way you use your screens, these signs can develop into more permanent posture issues, and potentially a hunched back or dowager’s hump (in medical terms this is a ‘Cervico-thoracic hyperkyphosis’).
But symptoms of text neck can also go beyond the obvious physical symptoms to affect things like your stress levels, emotional stability, your ability to feel pleasure, and your libido.
How can text neck make you stupider?
The impact that text neck can have on your nervous system has also been shown to have the potential to affect your cognitive function. One controlled case study looked at people who had chronic whiplash-associated disorders and compared them with a test group. Those with the forward head posture made more errors in their sensorimotor control and were also less able to multitask than those who did not have neck injuries.
Another study, which looked at 160 participants, half of which had tech neck and half that didn’t, found those with neck issues had abnormal nerve impulse information travelling towards the brain. Researchers concluded that this distortion of nerve impulses affected proprioceptive input, which is essentially our body’s sixth sense, affecting our sensory awareness. So participants with that head forward posture tended to be more clumsy and to fall more often.
How can it be treated?
If you feel like text neck might be affecting your posture – and potentially your brain – there are a few things you can start doing right now that can provide relief:
– raise your mobile phone to eye level when you’re using it
– take regular breaks from tech
– stand up straight as often as possible
– stretch regularly to ease muscle tension
– exercise daily.
Cervical manipulation (like a chiropractic adjustment) has also been proven to be beneficial in cases of text neck, with chiropractors able to help release muscle spasm and intervertebral restriction, restore cervical mobility, and mitigate neurological dysfunction.
Want help with your forward head posture?
Are you suffering from symptoms of text neck, or want to prevent the accompanying neurological damage? Chiropractic Life can do a full neurostructural analysis to determine if you are suffering from tech neck syndrome, and we can work with you to put a corrective care plan in place.
Find a Chiropractic Life location near you.
Balthillaya GM, Parsekar SS, Gangavelli R, et al, 2022, ‘Effectiveness of posture-correction interventions for mechanical neck pain and posture among people with forward head posture: protocol for a systematic review’, BMJ Open 2022;12:e054691. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-054691