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Ouch: A Pain In My Text Neck

I see it all the time—on the train, in the streets, at Whole Foods. The epidemic of the head forward and chin jut is now a defining characteristic of our generation. “Text Neck,” relatively new on the diagnostic scene, originates in our technology addiction and desire to feel “connected.” Whether you’re crouching in a corporate cubicle or slouching in a café, chances are you’re not immune and need to take steps to improve the way you treat your body.

You are the only one that has to live in your body, so treat it like a temple.

Our bodies are surprisingly quick to adapt to habits like poor posture. The human head weighs about 10 pounds, and for every inch of forward chin jut, its perceived weight increases by 10 pounds. Tilting your head just 15 degrees forward puts an extra 27 pounds of stress on your cervical spine! Remaining in this position overworks the muscles around your head, neck, and shoulders and can lead to sprains and strains of those precious muscles and ligaments. When in the “texting posture,” the suboccipital muscles at your skull base are shortened, along with your pecs, the muscles that make up your chest. Meanwhile, the muscles that neutralize this effect (your deep neck flexors, rhomboids, lats, and serratus anterior) usually end up overstretched and turned off.

“Text Neck” has been tied to tension headaches, neck and shoulder pain, spinal disc injuries, and in some cases—particularly in children who play computer games—a decrease in the natural curvature of the cervical spine.  Some research has linked the issue to early onset arthritis and decreased lung capacity. Since the body is interconnected and no action happens in isolation, “texting thumb” has also become a condition of rampant magnitude.

Nowadays, our expectations are intense, to say the least: answer that email before the train stops; check your Facebook feed in the elevator; and get those oxytocin hits with real time mega thrills like catching a Pokémon without ending up hospitalized.

Let’s be real for a second. Since you’re not (and I’m not) able to completely divorce our present technological realities, how do we fix the text neck problem? Or at least do effective damage control? As always, if you have the will, there are ways:

  1. Let us assess your work area. Is it ergonomic? If your set-up is off, no amount of exercise, massage, or stretching will change the effects of 10+ hours a day contorted like a hunchback. There are easy and affordable measures you can take that are not immediately obvious. Contact us for a full assessment.
  2. Curb your screen time. Cultivate an awareness of how much you consult your phone by tracking your time. Of course there’s an app if you need extra discipline.
  3. If you really can’t limit screen time, take a harm reduction approach: try to hold your device at an angle that’s better for you. There’s an app for that too, don’t you know! 
  4. Strengthen and stretch your muscles. Try this doorway stretch to improve your posture. Or myofascial release (MFR) for your upper back. There are lots of other great exercises you can try as well.
  5. Take frequent breaks from your work or texting. Even a 2-minute breather can act as a powerful reset button. Try the above stretches during your breaks!
  6. Wear Lumo, a device worn on the outside of your clothing that buzzes every time you start to slouch. The pavlovian response will make you sit up straight in no time.
  7. Wear an Intelliskin shirt, which is skin-tight and can be worn under your regular shirt. This magical gear helps you find good posture by tensioning in all the right places to pull those shoulders off your ears and stabilize them down and back.
  8. See us at Urban Wellness Clinic for an instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization like the Graston Technique, or a get a chiropractic adjustment to improve joint motion throughout your entire body.

The key here is becoming more present in your body and changing the way you view your phone. Since the problem is even occurring among children, education needs to start early. Habits are hard to break, but our systems are indeed smart and easily adaptable, so set a good example, and balance in the body will follow! To get assessed in your office, call us at 212-355-0445 or contact us at

Best in Health,

Dr Emily Kiberd