Text Neck

By Dr. Brittany Schmidt

As a doctor of chiropractic, the structures of the spine are my primary concern when it comes to treating patients. I had been working with a patient—for privacy concerns let’s call her Sandra—and decided to obtain X-rays of her neck. Sandra’s X-rays showed one important finding: a reversed curve in her neck.
“I reviewed your neck x-rays and everything looks good, except I noticed that the curve in your neck is mildly reversed.” I explained to Sandra after receiving her x-rays.

“What does that mean?” Sandra asked eagerly, “What is that from? Is that bad?”

Our spines have three natural curves; the curves in the cervical spine and lumbar spine are inward curves that we call lordotic, while the thoracic spine has a kyphotic or outward curve. The kyphotic curve in the thoracic spine is a primary curve, meaning we are born with that convex curvature. The lordotic curves in the cervical and lumbar spine are secondary curves that are developed after birth. This is why tummy time is essential for babies because this helps form the lordotic curve and strengthens the neck muscles. Chiropractors everywhere are seeing a reduced curve or a reversed curve in the neck, just like Sandra’s. Which means that where there should be a nice inward curve there is either a straight/reduced (alordotic) curve or a reversed (kyphotic) curve. The reason for this epidemic? Technology. We are spending multiple hours a day with our head in full flexion looking at our smart phones, tablets, or keyboards at work. This increased flexion creates a strain on neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Because of this strain, over time, the body will slowly adapt to this posture and create abnormal curves. The problem has been termed “text neck syndrome” or “tech neck.”

Our heads are actually heavier than one might think; on average, our noggins weigh about 10-12 lbs. and when they are held in a forward position the weight increases causing a shocking amount of stress on the structures in the neck.

Text neck should not be taken lightly, as a reduced or reversed lordotic curve can cause headaches, muscle aches, and increase the risk of conditions like disc herniation and arthritis. Doctors everywhere should be educating their patients about text neck and providing strategies to prevent it. Like Sandra, many are unaware that such a problem is developing in our society. Sandra immediately brought up her two children and stated that all day they stare at their phones with their head in such a position. This to me is alarming but not surprising as I see it ALL the time. It is not uncommon to walk into a treatment room and find a child or adolescent staring at their phone with their head in full flexion—I almost always cringe and proceed to educate both the child and the parent about text neck. As children are growing up in this exciting time of advanced technology, parents should be made aware of text neck and work on ways to prevent it in their children. Sandra was anxious to learn about what she could do to correct her neck and also prevent the same thing happening to her children. So, what can you do to reduce or prevent text neck? Below are some simple strategies that can help:

    1. Get adjusted!
      Regular adjustments from a chiropractor is beyond beneficial for this type of condition. Trust an expert to help you stay aligned and keep your spine healthy.

    2. Raise your phone!
      Bring your phone to eye level, keeping your sternum up and your shoulders back. It might take a while to develop good posture but trust me your spine will thank you!

    3. Use a rolled towel!
      Lie down and roll up a towel and place in under your neck, allow your neck to fall into mild extension and stay in this posture for about 10 minutes.

    4. Take Breaks!
      Take breaks from your computer and phone. If you’re at the office take a stretching break 1x/hour, get up walk around and get some movement in! This can be difficult to remember so try setting a reminders on your phone. Not only is this good for our bodies, it is good for our mental health as well to take a beat and disconnect for a second. And I don’t know about you, but for me, taking a few moments every hour boosts my productivity!

    5. Brueggers Relief Position!
      Look up or ask your doctor about Brueggers relief position. This is especially helpful if you spend lots of time in front of a desk

    6. Practice Yoga!
      There are many benefits to practicing yoga. These positions that will support the natural curve:

      1. Mountain pose
      2. Cobra pose
      3. Cat/Cow pose
      4. Fish pose
      5. Down Dog pose
      6. Half pigeon pose