Text Neck Syndrome: “A real pain in the neck!”

By: Dr. John R. Mishock
Mishock Physical Therapy & Associates

The advent of smartphones and other similar devices led to a new musculoskeletal repetitive stress injury called text neck syndrome. The syndrome occurs with excessive watching or texting on handheld devices over a sustained period of time. Recent research has shown that approximately 87% of teenagers, ages 14 to 18, and over 95% of adults ages 18 to 34, own a smartphone in the USA. (PloS. One, 2017). The high rate of use coupled with poor posture negatively impacts the spine and surrounding musculature. Often when individuals use their smart phone, they hold it in their lap or at waist height, causing the head to flex forward and the shoulders to round inward. The head weighs approximately 10-15 pounds. Tilting the head forward (flexion) to 15 degrees increases the biomechanical force on the neck and surrounding musculature to approximately 30 pounds. This detrimental force progressively increases as the head and neck bends. At 30 degrees there is 40 pounds of force and at 60 degrees 60 pounds of force. (Annals of Occ. and Environ Med, 2014) Couple the exponential increase in force with head and neck bending with excessive time periods in this position leads to stress/strain injury of the neck, mid-back, and shoulders.

Symptoms of Text Neck Syndrome:
• Stiffness and tightness of neck and shoulders limiting range of motion.
• Neck pain and headaches (behind the eye or the back of the skull).
• Weakness of the musculature of the neck, mid-back, and shoulders.
• Numbness and tingling into the arms and hands.
• Poor posture (head forward, rounded shoulders, and flat spine)

Prevention Strategies for Text Neck Syndrome:
• Position the device in front of the face, keeping head up and shoulders back.
• Avoid prolonged static postures and excessive smart phone use. Take frequent breaks every 10 minutes, getting out of the flexed posture.
• Perform neck and mid-back stretches.

Physical Therapy can Help!
Although specific exercises are important in spinal rehabilitation, one should never forget the importance of manual therapy (use of hands in treating muscles and joints). Manual therapy (manipulation, fascial manipulation, Active Release, Graston technique) has been shown to influence muscle function by normalizing the muscle and joint. This combination of exercise and hands-on treatments has been shown to reduce pain, improve function and speed up recovery. (JOSPT, Oct 2007, Euro Spine Journal, 2011).

Studies also show that physical therapy saves money by decreasing medical costs and reducing work absenteeism. The physical therapist will also assess and educate the patient on proper posture, body mechanics, and home exercises that can help reduce or prevent future episodes of pain.

We can help!
If pain is limiting you from doing the activities you enjoy, call Mishock Physical Therapy for a Free Phone Consultation at (610)327-2600. Email your questions to mishockpt@comcast.net. Visit our website to learn more about our treatment philosophy, our physical therapy staff, and our 6 convenient locations in Gilbertsville, Skippack, Phoenixville, Barto, Limerick, and Stowe, (Pottstown) at www.mishockpt.com.

Dr. Mishock is one of only a few clinicians with doctorate level degrees in both physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of Pennsylvania.