May 7, 2022

Text Neck Syndrome – Are you suffering from one?

If you’re a heavy mobile user and always have this nagging discomfort around the neck, you could be experiencing “text neck syndrome”. Guess what? You’re not alone. About 75% of the world’s population have this problem to some extent and it’s not only affecting adults but young children too.

The term “text neck” basically refers to the spinal degeneration of the neck as a result of looking down, reading and texting on our mobile screens for long periods of time. This wrong posture (that we’re all guilty of) can potentially lead to chronic musculoskeletal pain and spasm around the head, shoulder and neck.

The danger of over-flexing our neck

In a neutral (upright) position, our head weighs about 5 kg, but as we hunch over our handheld devices, the weight increases to 18 kg at 30° and 27 kg at 60°, respectively that’s almost 5 times more than its original position. The repeated forward flexion can induce a lot of stress, causing vertebral instability, distortion of the cervical spine as well as nerve dysfunction. 

What are the symptoms of text neck?

One of the most common signs to watch out for is the intensity of pain surrounding the cervical spine, upper back, shoulder regions and muscle spasms. In chronic text neck, the pain can cause headaches and impair vision resulting in eye strain, dry eyes and nearsightedness. Studies have shown that children and adolescents with persistent pain are at an increased risk of developing chronic pain when they become adults.

As you continue to hunch over, the thoracic spine can suffer from a postural distortion called hyperkyphosis (curvature of the spine exceeds the normal range). This condition tends to restrict muscle movements in between the ribs during breathing and is associated to several cardiovascular problems and pulmonary diseases. In severe cases, one might even experience early onset of arthritis, spinal cord degeneration, disc compression, and herniation.

Who to see if you’re having neck pain?

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should seek advice from a spine doctor or a neurologist to rule out other causes of neck pain such as tumours, infection, inflammatory diseases, and congenital disorders. These often require imaging diagnosis such plain radiographs and/or magnetic resonance. However, in most cases, a detailed history and physical examination should suffice.

How to fix text neck syndrome?

The common short-term relief for neck pain includes pain medication, muscle relaxants, manual manipulation, physical exercises, electromagnetic therapy and acupuncture. Surgeries are usually not recommended unless there are severe neurological disorders that don’t respond to conservative treatment. 

Hence, prevention is key and practising correct posture on a daily basis is important to manage text neck syndrome for the long term.  Here are some tips you could follow.

Tips to prevent text neck syndrome.

Now that you’re aware of how text neck develops, remember to sit upright the next time you’re using your mobile devices. Having good control over your posture can go a long way in preventing the musculoskeletal and neurological hazards that come with the syndrome.

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