Are your neck muscles working overtime? Your cell phone may be the culprit.

As you read this blog, consider how you are holding your neck. Is it sitting on top of your frame, evenly balanced between the front and back of your body? Or is it positioned forward with your neck muscles keeping it from falling forward? The neck must do a great deal of work. The muscles in the back of the neck bring the head backward. The muscles on each side of the neck bend the neck laterally and they also rotate the head and neck. The muscles in the front of the neck bring the head forward. The muscles between the shoulder blades support the weight of the head.

An average adult head weighs 10 to 15 pounds. Poor posture with improper positioning of your head can add pounds of weight strain to your neck. For example, leaning your head 45 degrees forward for extended periods of time will more than triple the weight burden to your neck, up to 49 pounds. Leaning 60 degrees forward will have you carrying the equivalent of a 60-pound bag of dog food at the back of your neck!

Then there’s texting, which happens to be a growing source of neck pain. The average teen or adult spends up to four hours a day texting or looking down at their mobile devices. This habit of repeatedly looking down at your device reinforces the tendency of neck muscles to work hard in order to support an unhealthy posture. The trapezius and deltoids have to work overtime to hold your head in an upright position, as the smaller splenius muscles get strained.

This continuous forward tugging of the head impacts the natural curvature of your cervical spine and can cause stiff neck, difficulty in turning the head, pain when looking down and spasms. The weight of the head bearing down on the neck and the countless head movements we make every day may cause strain and inflammation that can constrict blood circulation and slow down healing, which in turn can put stress on ligaments that aggravate muscle strains. This harmful pattern explains why people suffer from chronic neck pain that may persist for decades.

Don’t panic. You can still use your electronic devices, but your neck will thank you if you do so with awareness of your head tilt. Try holding your mobile device higher so your head doesn’t arc forward as much. Check your work station for appropriate ergonomics, ensuring that the height of your computer screen is more or less level with your eyes.

Simple neck stretches such as clasping your hands behind your back and looking over each shoulder toward your heel can bring relief to tight muscles and help relieve stress in the process.

Acupuncture, cupping and tuina massage can relax tight muscles, reduce inflammation and restore good blood circulation to strained neck muscles. Topical use of our tonic oil or other liniment can provide added relief, too.


PainAlbert Vaca, L.Ac.