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Text neck over the long term

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Damasceno et al. recently found no link between “text neck” and current neck symptoms, and that got a lot of people tweeting triumphantly about how the alleged text neck epidemic is bollocks. For many of us, that study confirmed our bias that mechanical factors play a surprisingly minor role in pain. But … but …

What about the long term?! Isn’t that really where the risk is? No one really thinks texting causes chronic neck pain in the short term … do they? Surely not!

Not all long-term health risks show themselves early. Constant head drooping over many years could lead to modest increases in arthritis, without a trace of a problem for many years. Unlikely. But conceivable.

Maybe the lack of long-term data is trivial. Long-term risks often have at least some short term warning signs. (There’s no link between smoking and high mortality in young adults—it takes decades to kill yourself that way—but it sure does hit their fitness!)

The absence of any neck pain linked to neck posture in the short term is encouraging, and I personally doubt that text neck is a long-term risk for neck pain … but I wanted to be clear that it has not actually been tested, and some risk is actually plausible.

Bottom line: maybe too many of us text neck doubters have been just a leeetle bit too hasty making debunking hay out of Damanesco et al. My neck pain book has been updated with some of these thoughts (and much else in the last year: for quite a while now, it has been my most-updated book).