Are you reading this article on your smart phone? Stop. Does your neck hurt? If you’re like most Americans, it probably does and you’re holding a possible cause in your hand. Yep, your smart phone, the device that few of us can live without—the one we both love when we’re looking for a new restaurant and hate when it won’t leave us alone.

It’s called Text Neck. Google it and weep.

Or just read “Text neck is becoming an ‘epidemic’ and could wreck your spine,” from the Washington Post , which discusses new research that shows how cell phones are causing problems with our posture.

Studies show that Americans between 18-24 years of age send and receive, on average, 126 text messages per day, which is 16% higher than the previous two years. Text messaging stresses the neck as the head looks down in a forward position, making the head seem much heavier on the spine. The steeper the angle, the heavier the head—so as you look down at a 60-degree angle, your neck feels like it’s supporting a 60-pound weight. Or, in other words, like walking around with an 8-year old strapped to your neck.

Forward head posturing can be the source of pain and discomfort from the upper cervical spine to the low back (and in some cases the arms and legs), as well affect your breathing.

There are tips to improve posture and decrease chances of these problems associated with text messaging:

  • Bring the phone closer to your face, which helps improve neck and chest posturing.
  • Routinely stretch your shoulders and chest, maintaining good flexibility of muscles which tend to get stiff with text messaging and forward head postures.
  • If you sit in front of a computer all day, get up from your workstation every 30 minutes to reverse your bodies’ posture and rest your eyes for short time-period. Also it is important to have a skilled professional (such as a physical therapist) perform an ergonomic assessment of your workplace.

Though text messages are happening at an increased frequency, neck dysfunction and pain from it does not have to. Be aware of the postures you adopt daily and make changes to take the stress off your neck and the rest of your body. If you have questions, or are experiencing pain that is affecting your daily function, consult with your physical therapist today.