Look around as you sit at the café or as you walk into work. How many heads do you see angled down at their smartphones? The human head weighs about 12 lbs, but as the head angles forward and down the force on the neck begins to increase exponentially. At a 15 degree angle the head weighs 27lbs., 30 degrees 40lbs, 45 degrees 49lbs, and 60 degrees 60lbs.1
Text neck refers to the posture that occurs when someone hunches over with their head lowered and shoulders rolled forward to look at their phone. Seventy-eight percent of Americans that own smartphones are at risk for this condition.2 In fact, a survey by Baylor University estimated college women spend 10 hrs/day on their phones and men spend 8 hrs/day.3 As a low estimate, 30 degrees of forward flexion would be equal to carrying five gallons of milk on your neck; now imagine carrying this on your neck for 8-10 hours a day.
As more young people spend increased time on mobile devices, we have started to see increased physical therapy needs for neck strain and pain at a young age. Children are establishing poor postural habits at the age that is essential for spine development. Their forward head posture carries over into other activities, including sitting in the classroom. This poor posture also creates muscle imbalance and weakness. In addition to advocating improved postural habits, limiting screen time and encouraging other activities is important for spine health. This goes for both children and adults.
Performing some simple exercises can help to reverse the tightness that is created with forward head posture and prevent ‘text neck’.
Start with your head over your shoulders and chest lifted. Gently extend your head forward while maintaining your starting shoulder and chest position, as if you were a turtle extending its head from the shell without the shell moving. Return your head to the starting position with your ear over your shoulder. Use a count of five: Extend head forward for counts one and two, hold forward for count three and return to start for counts four and five. This exercise can be done seated (Using the head rest in the car is an easy way to train proper driving posture) or when standing.
Bring you left hand comfortably into the small of your back and gently pull your shoulder blade toward your back pocket. Reach your right hand over your head and place your fingers just above your ear. Gently press your fingers into your head and lift your head away from your shoulders. Now let the weight of your arm carry your head to the right. Think of gently pressing your right elbow away from your body. You should feel a stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe and relax into the stretch.
Clasp your hands behind your back. Straighten your elbows by pushing your hands toward the ground. If possible, try to lift your hands and arms toward the ceiling. Be conscious to keep your chest lifted and head over your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe and relax into the stretch.
The aforementioned stretches can help relieve tightness that occurs as a result of smartphone usage. If aches or pains persist, make sure to schedule a free assessment at an Athletico clinic near you. Our experts will take a look at your condition and provide recommendations.
Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our telehealth service.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Bever, Lindsey. “’Text Neck’ Is Becoming an ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Dec. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/?utm_term=.939fb1206579.
2. “Walker Sands’ 2017 Future of Retail Report – The Rise of the Connected Consumer.” B2B Tech PR Agency and Digital Marketing Firm, www.walkersands.com/walker-sands-2017-future-of-retail-report-the-rise-of-the-connected-consumer/.
3. Sun, Leo. “Foolish Take: Nearly 80% of Americans Own Smartphones.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 24 Feb. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2018/02/24/a-foolish-take-nearly-80-of-americans-own-smartphones/110342918/.