Watch a mobile device user, especially one on the move, and you’ll see the problem immediately: the head tilt. It’s not good posture, it puts strain on the neck and various muscles, yet people text, videochat, read the news and explore online for long periods of time while hunched over. The resulting injuries and neck pain are collectively called text neck, tech neck or turtle posture and over time they may require a chiropractor’s diagnosis and treatment.

How a Tilted Head Stresses the Spine

Text neck is a repetitive strain injury. It can result from a sharp tilt of the head to view a small screen on a table or in the hand while walking and also watching the way ahead. Hand-eye coordination required to use the touchscreen can lead the user to further bend the neck. Raising and lowering the head while riding a train, for example, or during a conversation can further strain muscles, spine and neck. Laptop use and gaming system play can also involve a chronically tilted head and resulting tech neck injury.

Smartphones and Tablets have Unique Risks, Especially for Kids

Studies are underway to help understand how growing bodies are affected by these restrictive, repetitive motions. Normally, sports and other physical activity help young bodies to develop with good posture and resilience. Chiropractors are concerned that, even if children don’t report neck pain, they may experience long-term and developmental problems from text neck.

Symptoms which May Indicate Text Neck Problems

When visiting a chiropractor for neck pain treatment, mobile device users should make sure to tell as much as possible about their habits and symptoms when the history is being taken. That way the chiropractor can consider text neck as a possible source or contributing cause of the pain, and provide both proper treatment and some hints on how to use mobile devices for greater comfort. Symptoms include:

  • Neck pain
  • Headache
  • Upper back and shoulder pain
  • TIghtness and reduced flexibility in neck and shoulders
  • Change in standing posture which may include a head forward position and rounded shoulders
  • Balance issues (less common)
  • Jaw pain (less common)

Treating and Preventing Text Neck

Mobile device users can take action to prevent text neck, but if they are experiencing neck pain already, they should visit a chiropractor for a complete diagnosis. As with any medical condition, the symptoms could point to any of a number of conditions in addition to repetitive strain from smartphone use. These could include:

  • Neck strains and sprains
  • Muscle spasms
  • Ligament damage
  • Sudden injuries such as whiplash
  • Growths and disease processes in the neck, upper back, and spine

Exercise, stretches and keeping the body resilient with good posture provide good defenses against repetitive neck injury from mobile device use. Yoga, pilates and other strengthening and aligning systems of exercise offer significant benefit. In addition, these four daily habits are key:

  1. Holding the phone directly in front of your face as you look forward
  2. Taking breaks from the phone use and similar activities to allow your body to resume normal motion
  3. Keeping good posture — stand straight
  4. Gently stretching your neck and back and arch them to relax the muscles

Staying Conscious of Posture and Ergonomics with Evolving Technologies

Chiropractor organizations have been aware of ergonomic injuries from technology since the early days of computers. Companies whose workers are desk-bound with computers spend significant sums to ensure that they can easily keep proper position while working. New technologies such as virtual reality (VR) equipment and multi-screen work are raising additional questions of posture, position and motion.