Is Your Cell Phone A Real Pain In The Neck? How To Fix "Text Neck"

The cell phone has revolutionized modern society by putting tiny portable computers and communication devices right in everyone's hands. Unfortunately, Americans spend an average of three hours every day on their smartphones and check them approximately every 12 minutes!

Frankly, all that texting, swiping, and reading you do on your phone can be a real pain in the neck — one that has its very own name! It's called "text neck." It comes from constantly having your neck flexed into a forward position while viewing your cell phone, often with your shoulders slumped to compensate for the weight of your head. While it might sound funny to say, "text neck" is a very real — and painful — condition that may require physical therapy.

What are the symptoms of text neck?

Text neck comes from the increased pressure on the vertebrae in your neck, which can ultimately lead to herniated cervical discs. Because those discs can affect the nerve bundle that actually goes all the way into your arms and hands, the symptoms of text neck are more diverse than you might expect. 

The most common problems associated with text neck include:

  • Pain in your neck, even when you are not looking at your cell phone
  • Stiffness or difficulty lifting your head or turning your neck, especially when looking up
  • Pain that seems to radiate down one side of your neck and into the arm of your dominant hand
  • Weakness, tingling ("pins and needles"), or numbness in your dominant arm, hand, or fingers

If you experience any of these symptoms sporadically, there might not be any cause for alarm — particularly if you just had a long session on your smartphone. However, if the symptoms persist and seem to be getting worse, it may be time to check in with your physician, chiropractor, or physical therapist.

What can be done to treat text neck?

First, your physical therapist will usually help you determine the cause of your condition and then show you how to avoid creating the problem. This often includes exercises designed to correct your posture even when you're on your phone.

You may also have to retrain yourself not to slouch forward or bend your neck when you're on your phone. In addition, you may need some chiropractic care to put your neck back in alignment and ease the pressure on the nerves in your arm. Ultrasonic treatments, heat therapy, and massage may also help relieve your pain, but keeping the pain away will definitely require behavior modification on your part.

Don't treat the symptoms of text neck lightly because long-term nerve damage is possible if the problem continues.