Text Neck: What is it and what can you do about it?
An excerpt from the Scoliosis Coach Handbook by Dr. Andromeda Stevens
Spine health includes the neck. We all spend too much time looking down at our phones and computers, so it's important to note that we can lose this important alignment. The loss of this cervical curve can create many neck issues and discomfort, as well as joint degeneration later in life.
Sleeping on a good pillow with neck and head support is important, in addition to incorporating healthier postural habits while looking at our devices, reading, or computer work. Avoid texting with the head down! The neck bends forward when we text. This harms the natural neck curve and applies pressure on the spinal cord.
Text Neck vs. Forward Head Carriage
Text Neck: The loss of the normal neck curve
We spend too much time looking down at electronic devices which can lead to the loss of the normal neck curve and this loss of curve can create many neck issues and discomfort as well as degeneration later in life. Many of us in the modern world and those of us who are diagnosed with scoliosis have a flattened cervical curve/lordosis that should be addressed.
Notice in the second X-ray how flat/reversed the neck bones are stacked. This causes tension in the neck ligaments, and muscles and creates a lack of shock absorption. Long-term effects include arthritis, pain, and dysfunction.
Forward Head Carriage: the forward positioning of the head
Unlike those with "text neck," this posture reveals the head as forward of the center of the body and creates stress on the neck and soft tissues. The skull weighs about 10 pounds so any forward movement of the head adds the weight of the skull exponentially into the neck (skull 10 lbs. X inches forward = Lbs. of pressure on the neck).
Combining chiropractic care, physical therapy, good ergonomics, home exercises, and improving the neck’s healthy curve can greatly relieve pain.
Next, we'll talk through some exercises and stretches that may be helpful if you are experiencing neck pain. Consult your medical team before trying these exercises or beginning any treatment regime.
“Z Translation/Chicken” Exercises
Sit upright in neutral alignment (head over shoulders etc.). Pull your chin backwards towards the back of your head like in the photo below. Make sure you keep your chin level and do not tilt your chin up or down.
Variation: “Chicken with a Ball”
Sit tall and place a soft ball (5-8”) directly behind your head between you and the wall. Slowly pull your chin backwards against the resistance of the ball, like in the photo below. Make sure you keep your chin level and do not tilt your chin up or down. Hold the position for 1-3 second and then slowly release to neutral.
Perform 3 sets of 10. Stop with any pain.
Using a cervical neck fulcrum device may be a good way to relieve your neck pain. Talk to your healthcare team if you would like to learn more.
These should be performed slowly and carefully to the point where a stretch is felt but with no pain. There should be no bouncing. If the stretches increase pain or create any symptoms, stop. Sit up straight to begin.
1. Rotation: Gently turn your head to the left. Hold and breathe for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on your right side. The goal is to align the chin over the shoulder.
2. Flexion/Extension: Tuck your chin to your chest. Hold and breathe for 5-10 seconds. Lift your chin to the ceiling. Hold and breathe for 5-10 seconds.
3. Lateral: Start with the head upright. Gently bring your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Diagonal Posterior Neck: With your head tilted down, gently bring your ear towards your shoulder. Do this slowly and then hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side.
5. Diagonal Anterior Neck: With your head tilted back, gently bring your ear towards your shoulder. Breathe and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side.
Reminder: Talk to Your Medical Team First
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About the Author
Inspired by her own scoliosis condition, Dr. Andromeda Stevens, D.C became a chiropractor over 20 years ago. Her practice specializes in the proper rehabilitation of the lower back and scoliosis treatment in Los Angeles. She obtained a Pilates and Advanced Level Schroth Best Practice® Certification to incorporate Pilates and scoliosis treatment to her patients to resolve scoliosis and pain more effectively. Dr. Steven's contact info can be found below.
Neupane S, Ali U, Mathew A. (2017). Text neck syndrome-systematic review. Imperial journal of interdisciplinary research, 3(7), 141-148.