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Is Your Cell Phone Causing You Pain?

August 19th, 2017 by Synergy

By Dr. Michael Roura

Is Your Cell Phone Causing You Pain

Being on your cell phone all the time can be a real pain in the neck…literally!  As we all know, most people in America cannot go an hour without looking at their smartphones to check out the next meme of the day.  But what is so wrong with that, right?  Well, we will not go into the psychology of that, but we will address the negative bio-mechanical effects of “text neck.”

In order to look at their phones, the majority of people hunch over, with their shoulders rolled forward and their heads tilted down.  What most people fail to realize, however, is that an average head weighs about ten pounds and every inch that the head is dropped forward effectively doubles the load on the neck muscles, discs, and vertebrae.  This means that when looking down at a smartphone there can be as much as sixty pounds of load on the neck.  In the short term, this strain may only result in some minor soreness, but when we spend several hours or every day in this same posture, many bio-mechanical changes begin to occur.

  1. Front neck muscles start to shorten, bringing the head, neck, and shoulders forward.
  2. As the shoulders move forward, they become rounded, causing a “hunched-over” posture.
  3. The muscles in the back of the neck become longer and weaker, further contributing to the forward migration of the neck.
  4. Lengthening of the neck muscles can cause the neck vertebrae to lose their natural curve, or even to curve in the opposite direction.
  5. This loss of curvature in the neck can eventually cause disc herniation.

All of this will ultimately contribute to chronic neck and shoulder pain, along with recurring headaches.  For the most part, people do not feel the effects of “text neck” until they are older, but every day I see more and more patients under thirty, and an alarming amount of teenagers and children, who are experiencing neck pain.  This is not supposed to happen, particularly since children are still growing and developing.  If a child were to use an electronic device every day from when they were first able to use one, the natural curvature of the neck might never be established at all, potentially setting them up for a lifetime of neck pain.

Fortunately, there are several changes that you can make to prevent “text neck” from occurring: 

  1. Avoid staring down at a computer, tablet, cell phone, or other electronic device for more than twenty minutes without stretching or walking around.
  2. Read messages or text without looking down by bringing your cell phone or electronic device up to your eye level.
  3. Try to limit the amount of time children spend looking down at their devices, especially if they already are experiencing headaches and neck pain.
  4. Work on your posture. While looking into a mirror check to be sure that your neck is not coming forward, your shoulders are not rolled forward, and that you are standing up nice and tall.

Cell phones, tablets, and electronic devices aren’t going anywhere, so I expect that the common injuries like the neck and shoulder problems associated with “text neck” will only become more prevalent in the future.  However, the expert chiropractors and massage therapists at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ are here to help.  If you would like to learn more about the techniques that may be able to help give you some relief, or about any of the different services we offer, please give us a call to schedule a chiropractic or rehabilitation appointment, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.


Dr. Michael Roura