“Text Neck” Syndrome and Mobile Device Use – Basic Ergonomic Tips #2

What is “Text Neck” Syndrome? 

Do you frequently use a handheld mobile device (smart phone, iPad, Android tablet) for emails/texting/Internet searching/gaming? Do you have symptoms of tightness across your shoulders, chronic head aches or soreness in your neck?

A syndrome called “Text Neck” coined by U.S. Chiropractor Dr. Dean L. Fishman, may be causing you to experience an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury, where you have your head hung forward and down looking at your mobile electronic device for extended periods of time according to the article “Could you have Text Neck Syndrome“.

The article states ” if left untreated, a ‘text neck’ can lead to the inflammation of the neck muscles, ligaments and nerves, permanent arthritic damage, as well as increased curvature in the spine. Dr. Tan adds: “This is very prevalent in our new generation of young adults who are constantly “connected” to their mobile devices, even while walking.” (retrieved on 5/26/2012 fromhttp://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/fit-to-post-health/could-text-neck-syndrome-025025469.html )

Joe Conway, PT,  in his article entitled “Text Neck Syndrome”  also addresses this syndrome’s origins, symptoms and basic suggestions –  balancing use with physical activities away from computing devices.

With the pervasive availability and  use of handheld devices, what can you do to combat or avoid Text Neck Syndrome?

Using basic ergonomic principles that are tried and true for both young and old will help you avoid or reduce the possibilities of “Text Neck” Syndrome. Here are a few of those basic ergonomic principles:

  • Reduce awkward positioning (don’t crane your neck, be aware of good ergonomic positioning of your body in relation to the device)
  • Take frequent breaks when using any kind of computing device (desktop or handheld)
  • Be aware of lighting in your environment
  • Create a balance of computer (mobile or desktop) use and physical activity (away from the computer)

Here is a  great video that reviews basic ergonomic solutions that can be applied to mobile computing. Note the suggestions of balancing time, positioning and activities that are basic principles of ergonomics:

The video remind us of the practical solutions of doing things in moderation, using good body dynamics and positioning when approaching any type of task. Our body is not meant to stay in one position for a long time. It is meant to move. Balance and moderation is key in all that you do. If you have persistent pains and headaches make sure you seek medical help.

What other tools might help you with positioning and balancing time spent using mobile devices?

Timer apps

Use a timer app such as BreakTime app (2.99 for iPad and iPhone)to schedule reminders to take a short break or when it is time to change to another activity. We all know how addictive a game or time searching in cyberspace can be!

Elapsed Timer is a free timer that can set multiple alarms on iPhone/iPad.

Using timers with students also helps them anticipate that screen time is over. Here are some great choices of visual timer apps for iPad, iPod or iPhone:

Kiddie Countdown Timer – Suited to younger students, the Kiddie Countdown Timer has options of using stop sign like visuals in its timer. Available as a free app and also $.99 to remove the ads. This was previously reviewed –  a great find by my colleague, Gail (thank you!).

Time Timer – This app is the electronic version of the 3″ and 8″ Time Timers compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch (1.99). It has three modes of timers – 60 minute, custom and a clock mode.  Time timer also provides settings to allow it to be audible, visual or vibrate (on the iPhone).

This is another great timer with many features.

VisTimer – Available  free and for purchase (1.99) for iPod, iPhone and iPad this timer does not have as choices of timers but does allow choices of colors for the clock, different sounds for warning and completion and features lapsing time. Limitations with the free version is it can only time up to 5 minutes and lowest warning time is at 1 minute. I work with older students and this free clock works well for my current purposes. We have many Time Timer clocks that are also readily available for use if a longer period of time is needed.

Waitstrip – A different, linear concept of a visual timer is the Waitstrip app. Available for iPod, iPad and iPhone for $.99, it features a concrete visual representation of time, amount of steps to be completed, number of minutes to work, math problems to be completed using a series of dots as a visual guide.

Stands or Positioning Devices:

Devices for positioning mobile devices are numerous however achieving the recommended 15-20° of neck flexion when using an iPad can be tricky depending on whether you are sitting at a table or desk or sitting in a chair. Here are just a few positioning devices I found that could help with iPad positioning for older children and adults when working at a desk or sitting in a living room chair:

Lap Stand:

Rain Design Irest Stand for Ipad Hands Free Stand for Lap Couch – The iRest lap stand provides soft foam cushions and hinges to get that perfect viewing angle.  Remove the cushions and the iRest converts to a desktop stand.

Table top stands:

Joby Gorillamobile Ori for iPad (GM12-01AM) Multipositional Protective Lightweight Aluminum Case Silver

Satechi R1 Arm Hinge Holder Stand for iPad, iPad 2, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Galaxy 10.1, ViewSonic gTablet, BlackBerry Playbook, HTC Flyer

Here are some positioning solutions when working with children/students:

Arkon Portable Fold-Up Stand for Apple iPad, Galaxy Tab, BlackBerry Play Book
– Foldable stand for tablets.

Griffin A-Frame Tabletop Stand for iPad – Another folding, portable stand.Easels already available in your OT department also work great for positioning your iDevice.

For more information on ergonomic positioning and iPad use visit Ergonomics and iPad #1 .

More tools for your OT iTool Kit.


About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in Accessibility, Accessories, App Reviews, Apps for OT's, Ergonomics, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod/iPad Accessory, Occupational Therapy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Text Neck” Syndrome and Mobile Device Use – Basic Ergonomic Tips #2

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