How to relieve ‘text neck’

Counter-strength movements help address this modern spine ailment

Carol Ann Weis, a chiropractor at Medcan, sees at least one case of “text neck” a day. It’s a strain injury from the repeated aggravation of the neck, shoulder and lower back muscles. Our neck muscles are meant to support the weight of the head in a neutral position. When we drop our head forward to text or read emails, we double or even triple the load on those muscles, hence the pain. The fix? Treat the strain, address the muscle imbalance and change the way you hold your phone.

Treating texting neck pain

“Acupuncture relaxes the muscles so they aren’t so tight when I target the soft tissue with active release therapy, where we take the muscle from a shortened position to a lengthened position,” says Weis, who adds she may adjust the midback if appropriate. Other treatment options include deep tissue massage, fascial stretch therapy, stretching – anything to address the pain.

Address muscle imbalance with improved posture

“Each body is unique and the specific cause of tension may be different from one person to another,” says Cortney Benedict, a personal fitness trainer at Medcan. “In general, to alleviate the strain on your neck from texting, reverse the position and engage muscles in the opposite motion.”

There are general exercises that will help to alleviate the stress of texting on your neck muscles. (Since these are not specific to your needs, be sure to stop if you feel increased pain or discomfort.)

Thoracic extension dynamic stretch

  • Interlink your hands behind your head, tilt chin down and in
  • Assure that the hands are only supporting the weight of your head and avoid pulling your head forwards
  • In a seated position, place a towel (or roller) lengthwise across your mid back (nipple level)
  • Keep your elbows wide and allow your shoulder blades to squeeze backwards
  • Allow your mid spine to arch and slowly lower backwards towards the floor
  • Take a deep breath inwards and allow your chest bone (sternum) to lift upwards
  • After a hold period, contract abdominal, exhale and lift your chest upwards to lift out of the stretch position
  • Repetitions: hold for 5 – 10 seconds in the leaned back stretch and repeat 3 times

External rotation

  • Start by engaging your core and lifting up to assure maximal spinal alignment
  • Rotate palms towards the ceiling (supination)
  • With elbows fixed by your sides, move forearms away from midline and return back to centre
  • Repetitions: 15 times

Wall reach

  • Engage your core to begin
  • Lean against a wall to assure proper spinal alignment
  • Tilt head slightly down and backwards to innervate anterior neck muscles
  • Bend elbows at a 90-degree angle and squeeze shoulder blades back
  • Press your arms upwards, overhead and engage your shoulders (avoid shrugging your shoulders upwards and engaging the side neck muscles)
  • In the pull down, squeeze your shoulder blades together and drawn arms back down to 90-degree angle
  • Repetitions: 12 times

Change the way you hold your phone

In order to prevent your neck straining every time you check your phone, here are a few preventive tips:

  • Raise the phone. It doesn’t have to be at eye level but a little higher so that the head doesn’t have to be tilted.
  • Change positions when texting. Lying on one’s back is an excellent way to relieve pressure on the neck.
  • Stand up straight. Good posture, with the shoulders pulled back, keeps the body aligned in a neutral position.

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