What to Know About “Text Neck”

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 12, 2022
4 min read

Phones have become a constant in most people’s lives. Your phone is almost always within reach, whether it is in your hand or your pocket. However, if we’re not careful, these little devices that we spend so much time on can start to cause neck pain the more they’re used. “Text neck syndrome” (or, “tech neck”) occurs when your neck muscles strain to hold your head up as you look down at your phone. Your muscles can become tired and sore the longer you hold your head in this position.   

Depending on the angle, your head can weigh 27 to 60 pounds, so your neck muscles will get a real workout if you angle your face down for multiple hours daily to look at your phone or computer. If you feel tension or soreness in your neck, you may have text neck syndrome.

Unsurprisingly, text neck syndrome is becoming an increasingly prominent issue. It can even cause spinal problems over time, such as pinched nerves and spinal deterioration.   

A variety of conditions can cause neck pain, so you may not think looking down at your phone is the issue. However, this seemingly innocuous act of looking down can cause many symptoms. Beyond neck pain and stiffness, you may experience headaches. Neck spasms and back pain are other symptoms of text neck. 

You may have a more advanced case of text neck if you notice a numb or tingling feeling in your neck. If your condition causes a pinched nerve, you may experience weakness or pain extending down to your arms.

Another sign that you have text neck is a sharp, sudden pain in your neck when you look down at your phone or tablet.

In summary, text neck places a lot of stress on your spine, your neck and shoulder muscles, your tendons, and your nerves. Limiting time on your device and making sure you’re maintaining good posture can help alleviate some of that stress, though.  

Once you've noticed signs of text neck, taking the right steps to treat the problem is important. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for resolving neck pain caused by text neck.

Proper posture while looking at your phone or laptop can help heal your neck. Putting your phone at eye level and keeping your spine in a neutral, upward position can lead to improvements.

You may think sitting up straight with a rigid back is the right posture, but this can be counterproductive because of the strain placed on your spine

When you are working at your deck, the right posture is sitting in a chair reclined about 25 to 30 degrees. Make sure you have good lumbar support and that your neck is relaxed rather than upright.

Sitting back like this reduces stress on your neck muscles and spine and helps your body relax while you work.  

Changing positions when texting or reading on your phone can help reduce pain further. Try lying on your back to release some pressure on your neck. This position gives your neck a chance to rest. 

Other methods of text neck treatment and prevention include: 

  • Taking breaks from technology use
  • Arching your neck and upper back occasionally
  • Focusing on exercising your back muscles
  • Making your neck more flexible

Focusing on strength and flexibility in your neck and upper back can help relieve text neck pain. Stretching your upper trapezius area and muscles in the back of your neck, for instance, helps reduce muscle spasms. 

To instantly relieve pain, try massaging or stretching the problem area. You can use a tennis ball or ask a partner to help you massage your sore muscle. 

Here are some stretches you can also do to treat text neck. 

  1. Neck retraction. Pull your head back and keep your jaw and eyes level. 
  2. Upper back and neck. When standing upright, bend your elbows and point your fingers backward, pulling your shoulders blades down and in. 
  3. Shoulder circles. Move your shoulders up, back, and down, then repeat. 
  4. Side-to-side stretches. Move your head to look over one shoulder and then slowly look in the other direction over your other shoulder. 

Text neck can cause other health problems if it goes untreated. Arthritis can arise from text neck. Bad posture can break down the discs in your spinal and cause even more pain if you don't work on fixing the issue. 

Poor posture can also lead to inflammation in your shoulder. This condition is called subacromial impingement. It can lead to disc protrusions in your neck or a narrowing of your spinal canal called stenosis.

As your discs experience more wear and tear, they can bulge or rupture. A ruptured disc can pinch a nerve and cause a different type of pain. Pinched nerves may require surgical treatment and can cause pain that spreads down your arms.

Text neck can cause long-term damage to your spinal nerves and cervical discs. If you don’t change your posture, you could encounter degenerative problems affecting your spinal column.