‘Text neck’ syndrome and some ways to ease the strain

Tilting your head down to see a screen puts a lot of weight on your spine and could lead to ‘text neck’ syndrome.

We’ve all heard about the dangers of too much screen time for kids. Now, there is a new health concern about a possible physical injury associated with spending all that time on the phone: “text neck” syndrome.

“Text neck” describes the repeated stress or pain in the neck resulting from constantly looking down — either watching or texting — on a handheld device for an extended time. Symptoms include nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders; general shoulder pain and tightness; and headaches, which are made worse when looking down or using a phone or tablet.

“The average human head weighs 10 pounds when sitting or standing normally,” said Joshua W. Meier, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville. “Tilting your head forward puts more and more pressure on your spine. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck could be holding up double or triple that weight, or more.”

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Preventing ‘text neck’

According to Dr. Meier, cutting down on screen time is the first step to preventing future discomfort. Other tips include:

  • Holding your phone up at eye level
  • Resting the device on a table instead of in the hands or on the floor
  • Using two hands to text instead of one
  • Setting reminders to shift positions

If your child already is experiencing some discomfort, Dr. Meier recommends doing some light neck and shoulder stretches. An over-the-counter pain reliever also can help, but Dr. Meier’s best advice is to put down the phone or tablet.

“Encourage your child to go play,” Dr. Meier said. “Give other parts of their bodies and minds a workout.”