If you’re like most Americans, you probably spend a lot of time on your phone. Not necessarily talking, but browsing, texting, and cruising social media. Unfortunately, this habit may come with some painful side effects. Neck pain from spending so much time on your phone has become an epidemic.
And the pain may be more common–and more severe–for people with TMJ. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to relieve the strain on your neck. But if these simple steps don’t help, you should consider TMJ treatment.
The Fulcrum of Pain
Your body performs a delicate balancing act in keeping your head on top of your spine. Very little of the weight rests directly on the spinal column. Because of the way the head is structured, the weight is leveraged onto your spine using the support of your muscles, while the top of the spinal column acts as the fulcrum–balancing point–for the lever.
A lever is a machine that magnifies force, and the further from the fulcrum, the greater the force. For the force of gravity, the only distance that matters is how far forward from the fulcrum the mass is. But that’s enough to make a big difference when you’re tilting your head forward to write a text or browse the internet.
How much of a difference? Well, your head weighs about 10 pounds, but when you bend your head forward by a mere 15 degrees, that weight becomes the equivalent of 27 pounds. At 30 degrees, the head requires 40 pounds of force to support. At 45 degrees, it’s the equivalent of nearly 50 pounds.
Forcing your muscles to bear five times the weight they’re supposed to can definitely cause strain, especially since people are now spending an average of five hours per day on their smartphones.
Home Care for Text Neck
So how can you avoid straining your neck with your smartphone? Well, there are a few simple strategies to try for home care:
- Reduce usage: if it hurts, it’s time to stop.
- Bend your eyes, not your neck.
- Raise the phone: the higher you hold the phone, the less you have to tilt to see it.
- Set up a mobile station to use at home or at work.
- Get comfortable: trying different postures where your neck is supported can help reduce the strain.
- Exercise your neck: take breaks from smartphone usage to exercise your neck.
Following these simple steps should be enough to reduce or eliminate most cases of text neck.
Is TMJ Worsening Your Text Neck?
So what do you do if the above steps are not resolving your text neck? You have to consider whether another condition might be contributing to the problem. One of the most common conditions that could be impacting your text neck is TMJ. Temporomandibular joint disorder (also called TMD) is a jaw disorder first, but its effects can reach far beyond your jaw. The neck is one of the most commonly affected areas.
People with TMJ regularly experience neck pain (even if they’re not texting a lot). That’s because the muscles of the jaw partner with the muscles of the head and neck to support the head. When jaw muscles are out of alignment, they are less efficient at their functions, including the support of the head. This makes people with TMJ even more susceptible to text neck.
Fortunately, TMJ treatment can resolve the symptoms–including neck pain.