Texting Can Be a Pain in the Neck and Shoulders

Most people aged 18 to 21 today prefer texting to emails or phone calls. In fact, every day, 3.5 billion text messages are sent—and that number is on the rise. Go on any college campus across the country and you will see students busy on their cell phones, typing away. While this may be a quick way to get a message out, it can mean an increased risk of neck and shoulder pain, according to a recent study.

Last year Judith Gold, Sc.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Temple University's College of Health Professions and Social Work, led a study that suggested that the more college students texted, the more pain they experienced in their necks and shoulders.

Gold and colleagues sent a questionnaire to 138 college students asking them to report the number of text messages they sent per day (in four categories: 0, 1-10, 11-20, 21+ messages) and to point out on a body map any discomfort they felt.

The Result

The findings showed an association between neck and shoulder discomfort and the number of text messages punched out per day, with the association particularly pronounced in male participants.

Gold, who also directs the Ergonomics and Work Physiology Laboratory at Temple University, says that this is a preliminary study, and further research needs to be done to confirm the association.

She does say, however, that the way the body is positioned for texting—stationary shoulders and back with rapidly moving fingers--is similar to the position for typing on a computer. Given the similarities in body position, she says, findings from research on overuse injuries from computers could be applicable to her team's study.

Given this, there are steps you can take recommended by chiropractors to prevent experiencing neck and/or shoulder pain from too much texting.

Tips to Prevent Neck and Shoulder Pain from Too Much Texting

  • Sit or stand up straight. When you are texting, don't hunch over the typepad. Hold your screen/phone at eye level and keep your neck straight. Pulling your neck forward is what causes the pain.
  • Keep your chest and shoulders open. Before you text, draw your shoulder blades back and down. This will strengthen the appropriate back muscles to avoid any pulling or misalignment at your neck and shoulders.
  • Take breaks. Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for extended periods. If you are sitting, get up and move around. Try to limit texting to five minutes at a time.
  • Use both thumbs. If you only use one thumb while texting, this can create overuse on one side. Make sure to use both thumbs. Also, give your thumbs a break when typing long messages.
  • Stretch your shoulders. Take a break from texting and take a deep breath, while raising your arms up toward the sky/ceiling. Keep your arms raised and take five, long deep breaths. Release your arms and then shake them out, allowing your shoulders to jiggle to improve circulation to them.
  • Stretch your neck. A few times a day, stretch out your neck. Draw your head over in the direction of your right shoulder with the guidance of your right hand. Hold and feel the stretch as you breathe to the count of five. Make sure to release your left shoulder as you breathe. Slowly inhale back to center and repeat on other side. Make sure to release right shoulder this time. Come back to center and take three long, deep breaths before you carry on to your next activity.


Harvard RSI Action. http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/preventing.html. Accessed Feb. 18, 2010.

Hendrick, B. Texting Can be a Pain in the Neck, Shoulders. WebMD. Nov. 12, 2009. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20091112/texting-can-be-a-pain-in-the-neck-shoulders. Accessed Feb. 17, 2010.

Pain in the Neck. Too Much Texting Could Lead to Overuse Injuries. ScienceDaily.  Nov. 10, 2009. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110105355.htm. Accessed Feb. 17, 2010.

Phillips, H. Doctors: Text Messaging Takes Huge Toll. CBS, Channel 2. Feb. 12, 2010. http://wcbstv.com/local/healthwatch.text.neck.2.1491827.html. Accessed Feb. 18, 2010.

Thomas, J. Too Much Texting Can Spell Neck, Arm Pain. HealthDay. July 6, 2009. http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/pain/articles/2009/07/06/too-much-texting-can-spell-neck-arm-pain.html. Accessed Feb. 18, 2010.

Thompson, A. Texting, a Pain in the Neck, Study Suggests. Live Science. Nov. 16, 2009. http://www.livescience.com/health/091116-texting-pain.html