The largest group of spine specialists in Europe is voicing concerns about the physical effects of smartphones, especially texting. “Text neck” is the term used to describe the neck pain and possible damage sustained from constantly looking down at a mobile phone, tablet, or other wireless devices for an extended period of time. The physical reason for the effect is simple: The human head can easily weigh 11 pounds (5 kg). Once the head is bent forward to look down on an electronic device’s screen, quite often at up to a 60° angle, the neck muscles have to pull five times as much and thus, the physical leverage and gravity may increase the head’s force on the neck muscles to at least 25 kilograms.
As a result of this uncomfortable position of the head, our shoulder and neck muscles have to deal with that increased weight burden. The known long-term consequences may include neck discomfort, neck pain, stiffness, and headaches, which may get worse over time.
Margareta Nordin, Dr. Med. Sci., PT, CIE, a professor in the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Environmental Medicine at New York University and the president of EUROSPINE, Europe’s largest organization of spine doctors, recommends taking frequent breaks from mobile devices throughout the day and consciously resting the head.
“Symptoms of text neck must be closely observed as they become more and more relevant, because text neck predominantly affects the younger, otherwise healthy generation,” says professor Thomas Blattert, a spine and trauma surgeon from Germany and secretary of EUROSPINE. Therefore, EUROSPINE endorses regularly exercising the neck muscles to strengthen and consequently relax the neck and back muscles.