Why Your Mobile Device is Causing Poor Posture
This blog about developing text neck from using mobile devices was written By Chitra Mittal, DPT, MHS, OCS, Liberty Physical Therapy in Jersey City
Before You Text, Think About Your Neck
It’s common for you to reach for your phone or tablet and use it – no matter where you are.
The majority of people staring down at their mobile devices are probably not aware of the strain this repetitive behavior is putting on their neck. So, as you are composing your next text, your neck is also straining. How? You’re putting it in a position it was not intended to maintain for long periods. This, in turn, has an affect on your entire spine and overall posture.
Who knew, the worst offender of good posture is something that you may be holding in your hands right now: your smartphone.
The world’s obsession with mobile devices has led to a condition called text neck. This is a repetitive strain disorder that is now an outsized epidemic among the 2 billion smartphone users in the world.
So, What is “Text Neck”?
Text neck is a postural disorder caused by long periods of bending the head forward and downward during texting.
This head position exerts a continuous strain on the joints and musculature of your neck and mid-back. It might not cause pain immediately, but over time, this changes.
It also straightens out the natural curve of your neck. This is an effect that can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- General pain
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Arm numbness
If left unchecked, this condition often develops into more serious conditions, such as the following.
- Herniated or degenerative discs
- Permanent spinal arthritis
- Postural syndrome
Signs and Symptoms of Text Neck – and When to See a Medical Professional
The symptoms described above include most of the indicators of text neck, but there are other ones to watch for, too. People’s lives are busy, true. But it’s always a good idea to be mindful of your body and what it tells you – especially if it’s signaling pain.
The first thing that you should consider is when you experience pain. Headaches and general body aches are often the result of many different scenarios. But with text neck, these symptoms often begin while using the device and worsen as time passes.
For people in the beginning stages of poor posture caused by mobile device overuse or incorrect use of them, the pain usually goes away quickly. As soon as you put your phone or tablet down, symptoms lessen. Over time, as people spend more time on their phones, these symptoms worsen.
It sounds simple, but not everyone makes the connection.
In general, be more mindful of how you feel when you’re using your devices, especially for a prolonged period of time. Taking breaks belps, as does limiting the use of devices. However, once the condition presents itself, it needs intervention in order to improve.
What types of interventions are there?
Treatment for Text Neck
Improving pain caused by this condition begins with making small changes and ends with permanently incorporating them into your life.
Since this is the result of poor posture, the idea is to improve it over time. This is done with changes to the routine, being more mindful, and, in many cases, working with a professional like a physical therapist.
Yes, it’s possible to improve posture on your own, but knowing the best methods for doing so is immensely helpful.
If you have neck pain or a lingering headache, consult a doctor. The most important step in treating text neck is to have a proper diagnosis. The second is to take action.
The more you know about this condition, the better. From there, the more you listen to your medical team, the easier it is to eliminate symptoms of text neck. Most physical therapy professionals will stress the importance of good posture and proper alignment. But what is proper alignment?
Proper alignment is the best possible position for the spine. It involves keeping your neck, back, shoulders and even the hips in line. This reduces overall stress on different parts of the body, keeping you comfortable.
You can’t stop using mobile devices, and you won’t improve your posture overnight. Those aren’t the goals. Instead, treatment for text neck simply means being more mindful of your body and implementing a few small – but necessary – changes.
How To Prevent Text Neck
Change The Way You Hold Your Phone
Lift your device instead of looking down. Bringing phones or tablets to eye level while sitting makes a world of difference. Since text neck happens when your head droops forward, try to make this happen less. When laying down and using a device, try to do the same. Holding your mobile device over your face – or at least close to it – keeps you from straining your neck.
This prevents the neck and spine from curving forward too much.
Left: “text neck” posture Right: Correct posture
Take breaks and stretch
Stretching quickly relieves tension in the neck caused by text neck and other posture problems. Very easy movements to reverse the poor posture are ‘Chin Tuck’ and ‘Shoulder Blade Squeeze.’ Incorporating these movements into your day takes very little time but makes a huge difference.
Below are the correct methods for performing both exercises.
How To Do Chin Tucks
The Chin Tuck is like forcing your body to make a double chin then releasing it.
- Keep your head neutral, chin level, and pull the head back like a turtle.
- Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 10 times. Only repeat when/if the exercise is pain-free.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times daily.
How To Do Shoulder Blade Squeezes
- Begin by sitting or standing tall with your back and neck straight.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as far as you can go. You should feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times (as long as there is no pain)
- Repeat 3 to5 times daily.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Giving yourself a break from using your mobile devices is essential to improving posture. Since it will take time to get used to the “new norm” of the way you hold and view these devices, setting limits is important. Even cutting use back by a few minutes a session helps.
You can also restore the curve in your neck by doing exercises that build up the affected muscles. The most important muscle groups to strengthen are your upper back muscles and deep neck flexors.
Before implementing any of these exercises or solutions, be sure to consult with a medical professional like a physical therapist. Making these changes is essential to improving well-being, but this is only possible if they’re done right.
Most patients with these symptoms recover quickly if addressed in time. If left untreated, they can progress to more chronic neck and shoulder pain, and even bulging or herniated discs in the neck that could require surgery.
Choosing a Physical Therapist to Eliminate Text Neck
You know you need to make a change, but where should you look? The answer isn’t complicated. Choose a physical therapist near you and immediately see – and feel – results. You won’t know you need treatment until you’re experiencing symptoms, but once this happens? Don’t wait.
Ailments like headaches, heaviness in the shoulders, feelings of ‘rocks’ around the shoulders, neck pain, tingling, and/or numbness in the arms mean it is time to consult a physical therapist like those with Liberty Physical Therapy.
A licensed physical therapist assesses your posture during different activities. This includes sitting, standing, walking, and sleeping. They will also assess the muscle flexibility and strength in the affected areas and prescribe exercises to restore balance. It sounds complicated, but the assessment for text neck only takes one session.
Once the initial assessment is complete, they then make recommendations for changes.
When looking for a physical therapist for the treatment of text neck and poor posture, make sure the therapist is trained and experienced in treating the spine. This ensures that the care you receive is implemented specifically to address posture issues. Good posture can’t wait.
Locate a physical therapy clinic near you today by using the BetterPT clinic location tool. Or, start your path toward eliminating text neck by downloading the app onto your mobile device, staying mindful of the above tips.
Both of these options provide you with an extensive list of clinics and options for treatment. In-person, at home or even virtual Telehealth sessions through the BetterTelehealth platform are possible. Make the decision that’s best for your needs today!
Dr. Chitra Mittal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. She is the owner of Liberty Physical Therapy in Jersey City, NJ that specializes in Spine and Orthopedic conditions. Ms. Mittal’s most rewarding experience has been treating patients from several countries and from all walks of life, thus affording her a truly in-depth understanding and hands-on knowledge of individual patient’s needs.