Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cellphone use can cause 'text neck,' experts say

Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and associate professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences

Courtesy of USF

Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and associate professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences

All that bending over cellphones and other electronic devices may not just be bad for your brain and relationships. It's also bad for your spine. Your neck in particular.

Some experts are calling it "text neck."

"I see it in patients, friends, colleagues, family members. It's a real problem," said Aimee Klein, a physical therapist and associate professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences.

Overuse of handheld devices such as cellphones can cause particular problems because most of us hold them too low, so we're always looking down. That puts a lot of strain on the neck, shoulders and upper back. One Illinois physical therapist reports seeing teenage patients with back, neck and shoulder complaints that she used to only see in middle-aged adults.

A 2014 study in the National Library of Medicine found that constantly looking down puts so much extra pressure on the cervical or upper spine that it can lead to joint damage and, in extreme cases, the need for surgery to get pain relief. Teen athletes are at especially high risk because many sports already put a lot of stress on their spine, shoulders and neck.

The solution, of course, is to reduce use. (See our tips box.) But also to hold devices higher.

"Most of us hold cellphones at waist level or lower, in our laps, especially if we're trying to hide it under a restaurant table or desk. I see that a lot," said Klein. "I even do it myself sometimes."

She recommends bending the elbows and lifting the screen up, closer to eye level. Also, if you must work on a small, handheld device for extended periods, take breaks, sit up tall with your head held high and try to relax the shoulder and neck muscles.

And if you do develop neck or shoulder pain, see a physical therapist who can give you tips and exercises to address your specific complaints. Klein advises against self-treatment or just trying exercises you find online because, done incorrectly, they may cause even more damage and pain.

Information from the Chicago Tribune was used in this report.

Cellphone use can cause 'text neck,' experts say 08/18/16 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2016 3:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.