'Text Neck' is an overuse or repetitive stress injury caused by looking down at your electronic device for long periods of time.

Move over, “BlackBerry Thumb”. There’s a new tech-induced health hazard in town – 'text neck' or 'iNeck pain'.

'Text neck' syndrome is a result of repetitive stress injury from looking down at your mobile device for long periods of time​​. Dr Tan Kian Hian, Director of the Pain Management Centre at Singapore General Hospital, gives an overview of this syndrome and ways to get relief.​

Never heard of 'text neck'?

A term coined by US chiropractor Dr Dean L. Fishman, 'text neck' refers to overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury, where you have your head hung forward and down looking at your mobile electronic device for extended periods of time.

How to know if you have ‘text neck’

When users are stuck in the unnatural posture of looking down for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to tightness across the shoulders, soreness in the neck and even chronic headaches.

That’s because the more ​​you crane your neck, the more weight it has to carry.

Dr Tan Kian Hian​, Senior Consultant at the De​partment of Anaesthesiology​ and Director of the Pain Management Centre​, Singap​ore Ge​neral Hospital​, explains: “When you lean your head forward away from its neutral position – when the ears and shoulders are aligned – by an inch, the weight of your head dramatically increases.”

If left untreated, a 'text neck' can lead to th​e inflammation of the neck muscles, ligaments and nerves, permanent arthritic damage, as well as increased curvature in the spine. Dr Tan adds: “This is very prevalent in our new generation of young adults who are constantly 'connected' to their mobile devices, even while walking.”

Simple ways to alleviate ‘text neck’ pain

The good news is that there are ways to alleviate your muscular pain and discomfort before your condition gets worse. Dr Tan says: “It is possible to feel better just by making some changes to your daily posture and your lifestyle.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Take frequent breaks: A “text neck” is a repetitive stress injury – it can be easily prevented by taking breaks from your mobile device every 15 minutes, looking up and bringing the neck back into the neutral position. Alternatively, hold your mobile device higher so that it’s aligned with your eyes and your neck muscles are not so taxed.
  • Embrace posture-focused exercises: Do exercises like yoga and Pilates, which focus your attention on attaining the right posture. You will become more aware of the way you use your mobile devices in this way.

What to do when the pain becomes too severe

Patients should seek medical attention if the above measures do not work. They may require a complete medical examination and if necessary, some investigations to find out what is wrong with their neck.

You can also visit the SGH Pain Management Centre, staffed by a team of specialists, nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists which helps patients restore function and manage chronic pain through a multi-pronged, multi-disciplinary approach.


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