Texter’s Neck: Upper Back, Shoulder & Neck Pain
Category: Strength & Rehabilitation
Have you ever left work after a long day suffering from what you thought was a migraine possibly due to stress, lack of food and water intake or maybe even from a caffeine deficiency? I am sure most of you can answer yes to this question. However, have you ever considered that maybe this “migraine” is a result of poor posture throughout the workday? Today’s society is heavily dependent on the use of technology to perform day to day tasks. Many of today’s office employees spend their days seated and working from a computer, tablet or cellular device. Each of these devices requires the user to adjust either their posture or location of the device to visualize what they are performing. Typically, the user will alter the angle of their neck versus adjusting the location of the device compromising their posture as a result. Many are unaware of their poor posture and the damaging effects it can have on one’s body over time.
What is Texter’s Neck?
Texter’s neck is a relatively new term granted to those suffering from posterior neck, upper back and shoulder pain as a result of looking down at an electronic device for an extended period of time.1 The average person’s head weighs from 10-12 pounds when positioned in neutral (0 degrees).2 However, as the angle of the neck increases (chin becomes closer to the chest bone) the weight of the head also increases. For example, when the neck is angled to 15 degrees the weight of the head increases to approximately 27 pounds. This additional 15-20 pounds on the neck creates an abnormal amount of stress on the posterior neck and upper back muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels and discs of the neck.2
Signs & Symptoms of Texter’s Neck:
Initially, one may experience headache like symptoms.1 This is due to the stretching of the posterior neck and upper back muscles that are being overworked. Trigger points, or knots in the muscle can develop over time and refer pain to specific points on the body.1 Depending on the severity of the condition, one may experience numbness and tingling throughout their arms and hands as a result of a pinched nerve.2
As mentioned previously, as the angle of the neck increases, the weight of the head also increases.2 If this posture is continued over the course of many years one’s risk of developing degenerative disc disease, arthritis and disc herniation is greater.2
Self-Correction Techniques for Texter’s Neck
In order to address the impairments that come along with Texter’s Neck, one must begin with correcting their posture. We now know that as the angle of the neck increases, the weight of the head also increases. Therefore, if possible, bring the device to eye level versus sinking your neck down to the level of the device to avoid additional stress on the neck.
The Deep Neck Flexors (DNF) or anterior neck muscles are often weak in cases of Texter’s Neck.3 Therefore, to stretch the posterior neck muscles and strengthen the anterior neck muscles chin tucks can be performed. To perform the chin tuck, draw the chin back as if you were making a double chin. Do not nod the chin as if you were nodding your head “yes” because this will increase the stress on your neck. The chin tuck should be performed on the way to work, while driving, and throughout the work day as tolerated.3
The Pectoralis Minor is a chest muscle that often becomes tight with Texter’s Neck and is responsible for rounding of the shoulders.4 In order to stretch this muscle, one can perform a door way stretch or lie on a foam roller with arms by their side.4
The Middle Trapezius is a muscle located in the back that helps with pulling the shoulder blades back.5 This muscle is often weak with Texter’s Neck and rounded shoulders can occur as a result. In order to strengthen this muscle scapula squeezes with a towel roll can be performed. This exercise should be performed threes time a day for 3 sets of 30 seconds and one should focus on pulling the shoulders back and squeezing scapula together.5 Chin tucks can be performed simultaneously.
The suboccipital muscles are muscles located on the posterior neck that attach to the base of the skull.6 These muscles often become tight with Texter’s Neck and can refer pain in the form of a headache.1 To relieve the tension within these posterior muscles, a suboccipital release can be performed.6 To perform the release, two tennis balls, a sock and a quiet, dark room is needed. The two tennis balls are placed within the sock and then placed at the base of your skull while lying down. This should be performed for a minimum of five minutes and can be completed multiple times throughout the course of the day.6
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