Back Pain

05 May 2018

3 ways to avoid getting 'text neck' from your cellphone

Looking down at your phone when writing text messages can cause problems along the whole of your spine.


Your cellphone puts the world at your fingertips, but it can wreak havoc with your neck. There's even a name for the pain you get when looking down at your screen – "text neck" – and it can cause problems along the entire length of your spine.

Bending your head forward multiplies the amount of weight your neck muscles need to support. Normally your neck supports the 10 pounds that your head weighs, but when bending forward it may need to support the equivalent of 60 pounds (27.2kg). 

How to prevent injury

A previous Health24 article points out that there are 37.2 million adults in South Africa and 97% of them have a cellphone. Cellphones have many benefits, but also bring a new set of health issues, such as text neck.

The following tips from the University of California's Ergonomics Injury Prevention Program can help.

1. Find the best angle. The best viewing angle is a bit below eye level, so remember to adjust the way you hold your phone.

2. Give it a rest. Being constantly bent over looking at your screen or contorting yourself to view your smartphone from different angles can cause problems. Take frequent breaks and use that time to stretch your neck, shoulders and back.

3. Make adjustments. Your smartphone comes with myriad ways to adjust how you use it. Learn how to change the settings for font size, contrast and brightness to make it easier to see the screen – that helps to avoid eye strain, which can lead to headaches.

How you hold your phone also makes a difference. You should frequently change the way you grip your phone. And alternate typing between your index fingers and thumbs to reduce pain from repetitive thumb movement.

Don't overlook the large number of ways you can talk on your smartphone without holding it. Remember that you can give your hands a break by using a hands-free option like the speakerphone or dictation options.

Cape Town based ergonomics expert, Angela Hendricks emphasises that the key to preventing any musculoskeletal problems is mobility. "Extended periods in any awkward posture can result in neck pain but if you are regularly changing your position and giving your body a break, it gives the muscles time to recover." she says.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Backache expert

Susan qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1990, and completed her master’s degree in Physiotherapy in 2013 at the University of Pretoria. She has a special interest in human biomechanics, as well as the interaction between domestic and work-related ergonomics.

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