Health Tip - Text Neck And Physiotherapy Management

Published Date: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Text Neck is an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding your head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. When holding your head in this position, excessive amounts of tension are created in the deep muscles of your neck and across the shoulders causing both acute and chronic neck pain. Chronic headaches have also been linked to this condition.

The increased prevalence of these pains is due to the increasing popularity and hours people spend on handheld devices such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets.

What Exactly Causes Text Neck?

When in an upright posture, when the ears are aligned with the centre of your shoulders, the weight of the average head exerts approximately 10-12lbs of force through the muscles of the neck. But when your head is moved forward by one 1 inch, away from this neutral position, the weight of your head dramatically increases. Approximately 6 times as much force can be generated !!! That is the same weight as an average 8 year old, or six Ten-pin bowling balls!!!

If left untreated, a 'text neck' can lead to the inflammation of the neck ligaments, nerve irritation and increased curvature in the spine.

Signs and Symptoms of Text Neck

  • Instant upper back or neck pain when using a handheld device
  • Nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at the end of the day.
  • General shoulder pain and tightness.
  • Intermittent or constant headache made worse when looking down or using the computer

Text Neck Treatment

Text neck is conservatively managed by your physiotherapist. The main aims of treatment are to reduce the tension within the neck muscles, reduce the pain within your neck and address the postures that aggravate your symptoms.

After your physiotherapist has assessed your lifestyle, posture and your neck structures they will confirm the main issues causing your neck pain. They will utilise a range of treatments including

  • joint mobilisations
  • posture correction exercises
  • neck stabilisation exercises
  • taping techniques
  • soft tissue massage
  • education
  • acupuncture

PHASE I - Reducing Pain & Inflammation

Pain and inflammation are strong inhibitors of normal muscle and joint movement. Pain is the main reason people seek treatment, and should be the first symptom to improve!

PHASE II - Restoring Normal ROM and Strength

As your pain settles, your physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring your normal joint alignment and range of motion, including muscle length and resting tension, muscle strength and endurance.

Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle recruitment pattern and prescribe the best exercises specific to your needs. They may also start you on a deep neck flexor strengthening program to facilitate dynamic control of your neck and head.

Your physiotherapist may also recommend a stretching program or a remedial massage to address your tight or shortened muscles. Please ask your physiotherapist for their advice.

PHASE III - Restore Full Function

Depending on your lifestyle your physiotherapist will tailor your rehabilitation to allow you to return to your desired activities. Everyone has different demands that will determine what specific treatment goals you need to achieve.

PHASE IV - Preventing a Recurrence

Your physiotherapist will assist you in identifying the best way to restore and maintain good posture by providing you with posture awareness prompts and exercises for you to monitor your own progress indefinitely.

Other Options

Some liniments and creams, such as Fisiocrem or Flexall, can provide pain relief by rubbing the cream into the neck, shoulder or arm. For more information please consult your physiotherapist or doctor.