According to Kenneth Hansraj (a New York Spine Surgeon), tilting your head forward and looking down can increase the forces to the neck up to 60 lbs by just bending your neck forward 60 degrees. The average head only weights 10-12 pounds, so this 5-6x increase in forces to the neck may sound like a lot.
Does this mean that texting is bad for your neck? Well, I would say it’s as bad for your neck as looking down is. Meaning, go ahead and do it occasionally, but don’t leave your neck in that position as that cumulative stress to your neck will not only put a large chronic load on your neck muscles, but you may develop other musculoskeletal issues that come with what physical therapists refer to as “forward head posture”.
What you should do: To help improve your alignment and decrease the stress to your neck and shoulder muscles, stand with your back to the wall. Keep your eyes level (don’t allow your head to look up or down), and while squeezing your shoulder blades together, retract your head so that your ears are relatively lined up with your shoulders.
To test this, you can place a weight on your head, and you should feel that weight go straight through your spine. Or have a friend lightly press down on the top of your head. If your head is forward from neutral, you’ll feel your chin jut out and a strain in your neck.
Now the hard part is trying to remember to keep it there. Start by adjusting the ergonomics of your work station, adjusting your car rear view mirror (make it the appropriate height only when you are sitting up tall), and other visual reminders to keep your posture tall and your head on top of your spine (and not in front). Lastly, whenever you exercise, try to remember to have a nice “straight” and neutral spine.
Common mistakes when exercising:
- letting your head drop forward when you do pushups
- collapsing your spine when trying to balance
- letting your head come forward with any arm exercise