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Text Neck syndrome: A Global Epidemic

Other than enabling to call or text someone, smartphones provide various conveniences, such as accessing internet, engaging in entertainment and etcetera. The modern citizen might have become dependent on smartphones nowadays.


“Text neck” is referred to the neck pain and possible discomforts resulted from looking down at the devices for prolonged period of time.


In a recent study, Lee and colleagues concluded that the head tilt angle (cervical flexion) was significantly larger for text messaging than web browsing and video watching, and significantly larger while conducting smartphones tasks in sitting than standing. It was found that at least 30 of head tilt angle from vertical when using smartphones. Computer users have been reported with approximately 20 or less of head tilt angle from vertical when using computers on a desk, and between 20 - 25 of head tilt angle from vertical when using laptop in non-desk settings such as on the lap (Gold et al. 2012; Moffet et al. 2002; Turville et al. 1998).


Dr Kenneth Hansraj reported that our heads weigh between 10lb - 12lb. As we tilt our heads down to look at the devices, the effective weight on our necks increases, at a 15 of head tilt angle it is about 27lb, rising to 60lb at 60.




The longer usage duration and higher frequency of using smartphones, together with the larger head tilt angle could be a key risk factor for neck, upper back, shoulder, or arm problems of smartphone users.

Associated Symptoms


1. Muscle fatigue, limited neck movements.


2. If a cervical nerve is pinched, pain and possibly numbness can radiate down to arm and hand.


3. Upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms.


4. Shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm.



Stretching Exercises


1. Upper trapezius muscle stretch

(a) Sit or stand tall.

(b) To stretch right side, place your right hand at the back.

(c) Pull your head toward left shoulder, looking straight ahead, until you feel a stretch in your neck.

(d) Hold it for at least 15 seconds and then return to the starting position.

(e) Continue this movement for 5 times and repeat on the other side.


2. Levator scapulae muscle stretch

(a) Sit tall.

(b) To stretch right side, place your right hand at the back and grab the seat.

(c) Turn your head to the opposite side and nod the head forward.

(d) Pull the head to apply gentle stretch along side and back of neck.

(e) Hold it for at least 15 seconds and then return to the starting position.

(f) Continue this movement for 5 times and repeat on the other side.



3. Pectoralis muscle stretch

(a) Stand tall at the wall corner.

(b) Place your forearms and palms on the wall at approximately shoulder level.

(c) Lean towards the wall without arching your back until you feel a stretch on chest.

(d) It's important to move your whole body as a unit, and not bend anywhere along the chain.

(e) Hold the position for 15 seconds and then return to the starting position.

(f) Repeat it for 5 times.





References:

1. Khaleeli H. Text Neck: How Smartphones are Damaging Our Spines.


2. Lee S, Kang HH, Shin G. 2015. Head Flexion Angle while Using A Smartphone. Ergonomics 58(2): 220‒226.


3. Kutty NAM. 2019. Text Neck: A Global Epidemic of The Modern Era. MOJ Yoga Physical Ther 4(1): 14‒16.

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