Texting Neck Pain: How to Hold Your Phone

Disc herniation. Pinched nerves.  Muscle spasms.  Carpal tunnel pain.  Am I scaring you?  I hope so, because seriously people, YOU DON’T WANT TO MESS WITH YOUR CERVICAL SPINE!

Ok I’ll stop yelling now…

“Texting neck” is the  name  for the new diagnosis that is plaguing people all over the world. Technology may be moving us forward, but it’s also hunching us forward as well. The chronic pain we’ve developed, as a result of hunching forward all day long, has become an epidemic of mass proportions. Forward head posture, which used to plague mostly the older generation, is now prevalent in 16 year old smart phone addicts.

Clearly stopping all smartphone usage is not an option.  So here are some practical ways you can still be on your phone, AND save your neck at the same time.  Here are the key points to think about when attempting to change your texting position (and reduce your pain):

  1. Keep the phone at eye level. This will help keep the cervical spine in a more neutral position.
  2. Minimize the amount that the arms are floating in front of the body.  This tends to engage the shoulder muscles which can engage the neck muscles.
  3. Find a place to rest your elbows.  In the examples below I use my hand, my ribs, my desk and my knees as possible options.

I’ve outlined each position and the key notes.  I’ve also recorded a video on this topic so you can see the demonstrations live. Note that in some cases, you can actually use this position as a way to strengthen your back muscles and engage some important postural muscles while you hold your phone.  This means you’re actually working out and texting at the same time! Well, kind of, it’s really more an isometric muscle activation exercise, but in the world of postural modification, these exercises are quite effective.  

Standing and texting:

This is the most difficult position to implement, but this position should help.

  1. Stand tall and roll your shoulders back and down.
  2. Place your left hand on your right rib cage.  Place your right elbow on top of your left hand to support your right arm.
  3. Use the right hand to view your phone and swipe with your thumb.
  4. Switch sides often to avoid overuse/fatigue.
  5. To type in this position, place your elbows on the bottom ribs so you can hold the phon
    e with both hands and type.

Desk work and texting:

  1. Sit tall in your desk chair and place your elbows on your desk.
  2. Hold your phone at eye level.
  3. Push down with your elbows into the desk, and engage your back muscles (under your underarms), while at the same time bring your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Sitting and texting:

  1. Move to the front of your desk or chair and lean forward with a flat back.  Place your
    elbows on top of your knees.
  2. Hold your phone at eye level.
  3. Push down with your elbows into your knees and engage your back muscles (under your underarms), while at the same time bring your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Floor sitting and texting:

  1. Push your butt up against a wall or headboard behind you.  Bend your
    knees in front of you and place your elbows on top of your knees.
  2. Hold your phone at eye level.
  3. Push down with your elbows into your knees and engage your back muscles (under your underarms), while at the same time bring your shoulders down and away from your ears.

These are simple changes you can make to your daily life that will minimize the negative effects of your phone usage.  If you find yourself forgetting and getting back to old habits, just correct yourself again.

Awareness is a key component of making changes, and being aware of the impact of all that “looking down” is the first step toward success and saving your cervical spine from pain!

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Comments (4)

Thank you for the info. The orthopedist said to keep elbows as straight as possible when texting, which seems to contradict some of the positions you show. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for your comment Simone! Hmmmm… keep the elbows straight while texting? If I understand this correctly, this means that the phone will be far out in front of you. This is hard on the shoulders and would be far away for my eyes.

If you hold it down, then your head is straining. So… I would contradict this information for sure! But please feel free to reach out to me if I am not understanding correctly….

Hello! Do you ever share this advice on Lifestyle shows? I work for a local lifestyle show in Des Moines IA and we would love to do a zoom segment about these texting suggestions if you’re interested. Please let me know!

HI Hilary! Feel free to contact me on the contact page…. YES I’m happy to share this info with your viewers.

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