Text neck syndrome aka anterior head syndrome is caused by repeated stress injury and pain due to excessive use and sustained forward head posture while on handheld devices. It is a growing lifestyle and postural condition with constant growth of mobile user population worldwide.
Sustained texting or watching from your mobile device could damage your spine. The more you tilt your neck forward, the more forces on the neck is. At erect sitting position ( neutral neck); forces on the neck is 10-12 lbs. A neck tilt of 15 degrees, gives strain on the neck of 27 lbs, 30 degrees of 40 lbs, 45 degrees at 49 lbs and 60 degrees at 60 lbs.
Symptoms are neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, headaches and increase thoracic kyphosis.
The most common presentation of Text Neck is neck pain, stiffness and soreness. The symptoms include:
- Stiff neck: soreness and difficulty in moving the neck is usually present when trying to move the neck after long usages.
- Pain: can be localized to one spot or may be diffused over an area, usually lower part of the neck. Can be described as dull aching or can also be sharp or stabbing in extreme cases
- Radiating pain: there can often be radiation of pain into the shoulders and arms.
- Muscular weakness: shoulders muscles namely, trapezius, rhomboids and shoulder external rotators are often weak
- Headache: sub-occipital muscle tightness can lead to tension type headaches.
Prevention is the key when it comes to Text Neck. The following recommendations from a systematic review of Text Neck should be kept in mind while using smartphones or other hand held devices:
- Avoid excessive usage and take frequent breaks
- Avoid prolonged static postures
- Position the device such that it reduces stresses both on the head/neck and the upper extremities
- Avoid high repetitions of movements such as prolonged typing or swiping
- Avoid holding large or heavy devices in one hand for long duration
The goal of Physiotherapy and rehabilitation is education, soft tissue techniques, mobilizations, stretches and corrective exercises and dry needling if needed.