Spine Surgery

January 5, 2016

The Surprising Cause of Your Chronic Neck Pain


Millions of smartphone users in America spend more than three hours a day looking down at their phones. The strain that dropping your head forward puts on your neck is the equivalent of adding 60 pounds of weight to your neck—about the size of an eight-year-old child.

As the use of wireless devices has become more prevalent in modern society, doctors see a growing number of health problems related to their use. Text neck is the term used to describe one type of neck and upper back pain experienced by people who spend an extended amount of time reading or texting on their wireless devices.

Text Neck: Not Just a Device Issue
Although its name might suggest that it is solely caused or aggravated by the use of handheld smartphones, tablets and devices, text neck can also be caused by improper posture when reading printed books, driving, or performing other activities.

Working on computers or laptops with screens placed below eye level, which forces you to look down, are also common chronic neck pain causes. Hunt and peck keyboardists can also be afflicted with this type of pain because of their propensity for looking down at the keyboard as they search for each letter when typing.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Text Neck
You may first notice symptoms of text neck as pain and soreness in your neck or upper back, but the condition can also present as:

  • Muscle spasms in your shoulder or upper back area
  • Uncomfortably tight muscles in your neck and back regions
  • Pain and numbness that radiates down your arm or hand

Because text neck and other similar chronic neck pain causes are not age-specific, be alert for symptoms in your children, especially if they regularly use smartphones, tablets or other handheld devices. If you are suffering from the symptoms of text neck, consider making an appointment with a pain management physician who can help you create a treatment plan.

How to Lessen the Risk of Developing Text Neck
Chronic neck pain causes related to or worsened by poor posture, fatigue and the positioning of the neck and head can be treated by incorporating changes into your daily routines. Some of these minor lifestyle changes include:

  • Using your handheld devices at eye level
  • Limiting your handheld device use or taking frequent breaks to stretch your neck muscles and relieve tension
  • Opting to make voice calls, instead of texting when possible
  • Making sure that laptops and desktop computer screens are positioned at eye level and do not require your head to be tilted downward during use
  • Ensuring that your desk and seating are ergonomically adjusted to improve posture and comfort levels
  • Improving your typing skills to do away with “hunt and peck” typing that can cause neck strain
  • Taking frequent breaks to stretch and walk around the room when working on the computer for extended periods
  • Adjusting your car seats, steering wheels and rearview mirrors to prevent the need to tilt your head downward or slump forward when driving

Treatments for Text Neck & Other Chronic Neck Pain
If your chronic neck pain does not improve or respond to adjustments to your posture, device usage and work habits, professional care may be required to avoid the development of other, serious conditions—such as a pinched nerve or arthritis. Neck pain treatment often begins with a focus on strengthening your body’s core muscles to offer better support for your neck and spine.

If you are diagnosed with text neck, your neurosurgeon or pain management specialist will help you devise a comprehensive action plan geared towards your specific pain level and presentation. Neck pain treatment options can include steroid injections, cold laser therapy, massage therapy and other pain cessation and management techniques. If your neck pain does not improve through non-invasive methods, surgery may be required to relieve pinched nerves or provide more long lasting relief.

If you suffer from chronic neck pain and are seeking neck pain treatment in Arkansas, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 to schedule an appointment with one of our neurosurgeons or pain management physicians.

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