Healthy Blog

Text Neck - how your phone is damaging your body

Wednesday, May 06, 2015



Definition: Text Neck
Pronunciation: /text-nek/
Function: noun
Definition: overuse syndrome involving the head, neck and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking in a forward and downward position at any hand held mobile device, i.e., mobile phone, video game unit, computer, mp3 player, e-reader. This can cause headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm pain, breathing compromise, and much more.

Synonym: forward head posture

Did you know that studies now show that over 79% of the population aged between 18-44 have their cell phones with them for 22 hours per day?!?!

The simple weight of the head while leaning forward causes all sorts of problems. The average human head weighs about 5.5kgs, but as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine increases. At a 15 deg angle the weight is about 12kg. At 30 deg it becomes 40kg, 40 deg it’s 22kg and worst of all at 60 degrees it’s 27kgs!!

What is that equivalent to, you ask? That’s a small child sitting around your neck for several hours per day. Think of all the time we spend reading emails, texting and checking facebook!

The average use of our smartphones is for 2-4 hours per day. Even more so in young people.

This poor posture seems to cause other problems as well....

In regard to Respiratory Dysfunction in Chronic Neck Pain patients; “there was a strong association between an increased forward head posture and decreased respiratory muscle strength in neck patients”. – The journal of Cephalalgia, Feb 2009

“The entire Gastrointestinal system is affected, in particular the large intestine. Loss of bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common side effect of forward head posture” - Rene Cailliet, MD. University of Southern California.

In 2011 it was blamed for an increase in pedestrian deaths in the US, with some towns considering the introduction of fines for people who text while walking.

“Blackberry thumb” – repetitive strain injury caused by texting – has been joined by “iPad hand”, aches and pains caused by swiping and typing on a tablet. The list of ailments expands with every new piece of technology.

So what should we do about it?

  1. Switch between using thumbs and forefingers to text.
  2. Use a voice-texting assistant.
  3. Use predictive text functions, which suggest words for you as you type on your phone.
  4. Look down at the device with your eyes instead of bending your neck
  5. Hold your phone up at eye level more often
  6. Take regular breaks at your desk, perform some basic neck and upper back stretches. Your local physio can help you with those.

You might also just make a phone call instead.....

Do you want to know more? Greater West Physiotherapy in conjunction with Physio Inq offers free initial appointments. Find your closest Physio Inq clinic today. We aim to provide clearer, faster, longer results for your total care. Just mention this article for your free appointment today.