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Physician Update – January 2022

TECH NECK: IS IT FACT OR FICTION? A LOOK AT THE LATEST RESEARCH

More than a decade ago, researchers sounded the alarm about the impact of
mobile device use on our bodies. In 2011, a Canadian team published a study of 140 university students, staff, and faculty that found “significant associations” between their time spent on mobile devices and the presence of shoulder and neck pain.

“Although this research is preliminary, the observed associations, together with the rising use of these devices, raise concern for heavy users,” they wrote

Over the years, symptoms like neck pain, headaches, changes in the cervical curve, alterations in cervical and lumbar spine posture, and cervical disc generation have been increasingly linked to mobile device use.1, 7, 8 This is often referred to as “tech neck” or “text neck” and is sometimes extended to include laptops and tablets as well as smartphones.

However, there is some debate over how strong the link between mobile device use and these symptoms really is. One 2018 study “did not show an association between text neck and neck pain in 18–21-year-old young adults” and noted that its findings “challenge the belief that neck posture during mobile phone texting
is associated with the growing prevalence of neck pain.” Then last year, a Canadian study of 162 telecommuters (who are more likely to work on mobile devices) found that “clinical neck pain risk factors in telecommuters are similar to those previously observed in office workers.”

Another 2021 study further muddied the waters. It focused on a total of 2,438 chronic neck pain patients and evaluated both their cervical disc degeneration and smartphone use. Overall, it found “patients with overuse of smartphones
had higher CDDS scores than those who did not use smartphones excessively.” However, just 52.9% of the patients in the study — all of whom had chronic neck pain — were categorized as excessive smartphone users.

This serves as a reminder that while “text neck” is still under discussion, it’s far from the only cause of chronic neck pain. Worn joints, nerve compression, disease, and injury are also culprits. Regardless of the cause, one of the best treatments available is physical therapy.

Successful PT treatments for neck pain include manual therapy (mobilization), manipulation, exercise therapy, cognitive behavioral treatment/graded activity, cervical collar, massage, neurodynamics or neural tissue management, kinesiology tape, thermal agents, workplace interventions, dry needling, low-level laser therapy, electrotherapy, and more.

Both manual and physical therapy (mainly exercise therapy) have proven more
effective than general practitioner care on both a short-term and long-term basis, with success rates of 75% and 63%, respectively.

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AUTHOR

Julian Manrique

Focus Physical Therapy

"We Help Adults Get Back To Their Normal Active Lifestyles Naturally...While Avoiding Medications, Injections, And Surgeries"

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