‘Text neck’ syndrome and what kids can do to ease the strain

“Text neck” describes the repeated stress or pain in the neck resulting from constantly looking down — either watching or texting — on a handheld device for an extended time. Symptoms include nagging or sharp pain in the neck or shoulders; general shoulder pain and tightness; and headaches, which are made worse when looking down or using a phone or tablet.

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“The average human head weighs 10 pounds when sitting or standing normally,” said Joshua W. Meier, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville. “Tilting your head forward puts more and more pressure on your spine. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck could be holding up double or triple that weight, or more.”

Preventing ‘Text Neck’

Cutting down on screen time is the first step to preventing future discomfort. Other tips include:

  • Hold the phone up at eye level.
  • Rest the device on a table instead of in the hands or on the floor.
  • Use two hands to text instead of one.
  • Set reminders to shift positions.

If a child comes to your practice with discomfort, Dr. Meier recommends light neck and shoulder stretches. An over-the-counter pain reliever also can help, but Dr. Meier’s best advice is to put down the phone or tablet and go play.

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