Text Neck - Fact Or Fiction?

If a teen you know is a habitual texter, some studies indicate that his or her neck may have already aged the equivalent of 65 years.  These same studies also suggest that texting behavior has caused a nationwide outbreak of premature degeneration of the neck.  After reading these studies one is left to wonder is this fact or is this fiction?  In either case its good information to have.  

The cause of “text neck” is said to be the dynamics caused due to over-flexing of the neck for hours every day when dropping the head to look at a text screen.


“The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees,” said Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, MD, a spine researcher.  “An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the force seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.”

If one were to believe that “text neck” is a real thing, it could in theory send an unprecedented number of teens to medical offices later in life as the problem begins to surface. There could also be a delay in recognizing the cause of the problem as many doctors, who have never heard of text neck, would never think to ask patients with neck pain about their texting habits.  Additionally, there are many other possible causes of neck pain such as motor vehicle accidents, sprains, strains, etc. 

How large could this problem be?  With 2.19 trillion texts being sent annually by U.S. customers it would be hard to say.

Moreover, using a hand-held device for Internet access – as well as for texting – is now the norm with teens, studies show.  Dr. Hansraj’s study estimated that because of this doubling-up on hand-held instruments for texting and for Internet access, high-school students spend thousands of hours per year under the stress of a highly flexed neck.  

According to these study, long hours of strain on the neck cause a straightening of the normal concave neck curve, known as the lordotic cervical curve.  Loss of this curve can increase the likelihood of injuries in the future resulting from car accidents, sports injuries, etc.  

A person who follows a fad or trend does so voluntarily, it is said – they know the risks they are undertaking when engaging in the activity.  However, if a cell phone manufacturer knew that the normal use of their product could cause long-term medical issues and consciously decided to keep this information secret to turn a profit, does that make them liable for the harm?  It did for tobacco companies, but this is likely a different matter.  Anyone with minimal knowledge of the human body understands that keeping your head bent for hours at a time is not good for you – parents have harped on children for generations about good posture.  

Despite this, it will be interesting to watch over the next 20 years to see if cell phone manufacturers place warnings labels on devices or whether any public efforts are made to correct this potentially problematic issue.  In either case, and in an abundance of caution, one might choose to alter their body positioning while using a cell phone.  Why not? 

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