Is spending too much time on your phone damaging your neck?

Jul 23, 2020

Here’s how physical therapy may help with ‘text neck,’ medically referred to as Anterior Head Syndrome

Neck and back pain are nothing new. In fact, back and neck pain affect 80 to 85 percent of the adult population. But is newer technology more so to blame for neck pain than previously?

Yes, says Heidi Prado, Director of St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Physical and Occupational Therapy. She says more and more patients are coming to physical therapy to treat neck pain and spending too much time on phones and tablets is often to blame. Heidi Prado

“Texting or gaming frequently for long periods of time can have detrimental effects on our bodies,” Prado says. “Over time, the prolonged strain on joints that occurs while bending the neck down to look at your device can cause serious harm.”

Related Article: Is texting ruining our hands and wrists?

Text neck is a modern age term coined by a chiropractor. Medically, it’s known as Anterior Head Syndrome and occurs when your neck tilts forward and is out of alignment with the spine. Doing so here and there is a normal part of body movements, but doing it frequently and for long periods of time can cause damage to your muscles.

Every time you lower your head to look at your phone or something in your hands, approximately 60 pounds of pressure is put on the muscles in your neck, Prado says. Doing this frequently can over work the muscles potentially leading to:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Arm pain and numbness
  • Severe migraines
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Pinched nerves in the neck and upper back
  • Muscle weakness
  • Disc compression in the neck
  • Loss of lung capacity from compressed airways

“These activities overuse the tendons and ligaments in our neck, shoulders and hands, which can also cause severe amounts of stress on the body,” Prado says. “Text Neck has become prevalent in people nationwide. It’s especially concerning due to the high numbers of American children being treated for this condition.”

Treatment and prevention

Mild neck pain can be treated at home by applying ice and heat in an alternating manner, massaging the pressure points, regular neck rolls and chin tucks from side to side, Prado suggests.

Treatment for severe text neck may include physical therapy, neck braces or trigger point injections. A physical therapist can help correct postural imbalances and teach you movements and exercises that will lessen the pain and engage the muscles to make the neck and upper back stronger, Prado says.   

“If you suffer from text neck or feel like your frequent headaches, neck pain and upper back aches could be related to smartphone usage, do not be afraid to reach out to your doctor for a referral to physical therapy,” Prado says.  “We can help diagnose and develop a treatment plan to improve your quality of life.”

To prevent text neck altogether, make sure to take frequent breaks from your mobile device, raise your devices to face level when using and exercise regularly to strengthen your upper back muscles, Prado recommends.

St. Joseph’s/Candler has five convenient outpatient physical therapy locations including two in Savannah and one in Pooler, Rincon and at The Landings Club. Learn more here.

How can we help you?