We live in an era driven by mobile technology. Whether we are using devices for personal or professional use, technology’s widespread presence can’t be denied nor separated from our daily lifestyle. The ages we see kids using a smartphone seems to be getting younger and younger and I can’t name a single person in this day and age who doesn’t have one.
Public health research has now defined a condition called turtle neck syndrome which is exactly what it sounds like - and maybe you have even experienced it for yourself! This page will explore what turtle neck syndrome is and how to fix it!
What is Turtle Neck Syndrome?
Turtle neck syndrome is a relatively new phenomenon as stated in an article published in materialstoday: Proceedings, and has emerged as a health concern for both adolescents and adults alike being “described as a repetitive stress injury to the neck or the pain encountered in the neck due to excessive usage of handheld devices for a prolonged period.” 
Some symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Increased spine curvature
Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports that about “75% of the world’s population is hunched over their handheld devices hours daily with their heads flexed forward.”  This is such an astounding statistic - showing how much of the population is at risk for developing this condition!
Because we have shifted both our working and learning environments to being more screen-based, adolescents in particular spend several hours a day hunched over their devices. It is primarily our forward head flexion we need to be aware of, a position that many of us probably use to text and read on our phones - resulting in excess stress on the cervical spine area. 
Potential Issues if Turtle Neck Syndrome Becomes Severe
Often we think of adults, athletes, and elderly individuals as those who fall victim to musculoskeletal issues - but because turtle neck syndrome can start at a younger age, we have to consider the long-term harm it may cause.
Complications include those that involve the eyes, heart and lungs, head, and psychological field. 
This particular study goes on to share other symptoms of turtle neck syndrome that can begin in adolescence such as:
- Eye strain
- Dry eyes
- Poor communication
Additionally, the negative effects of downward screen viewing can also be associated with cardiovascular issues and pulmonary disease - even saying that there is a relationship between neck flexion and increased weight (possibly because of a sedentary lifestyle).
The multiple effects on our overall health that turtle neck syndrome is capable of should be brought to our attention regardless of age. Of course, it’s easier to prevent this the younger you are and the faster you become aware of your default neck position.
How to Fix Turtle Neck Syndrome
Just as with most conditions, prevention is key when it comes to this syndrome.
The study mentioned in the previous section suggests the following:
- Avoid excessive use
- Take frequent breaks
- Avoid prolonged static posture
- Position your screen so that stress on your neck/spine and upper extremities is reduced
- Avoid repetitive movements if possible (even typing/swiping)
- Avoid holding devices in one hand for too long. 
If you’re well past the prevention stage, habit correction, and lifestyle adjustments may be your ticket to being pain-free. A true diagnosis of this condition would require further health evaluation along with a medical history and possible MRI - moving forward to more involved interventions such as physical therapy or seeing a chiropractor.
Some Exercises to Relieve Your Turtle Neck Syndrome
Neck Stretches to improve flexibility and help with tension:
- Side-to-side head tilts (Tilt your head towards one shoulder bringing your ear closer to it. Hold this position and repeat on the other side.)
- Neck rotations (Turn your head side to one side and bring your chin towards your shoulder, holding this position for a few seconds - then switch sides)
- Tip: Do these stretches slowly and with control
- Bring your chin into your neck without tilting your head
- Hold this position for a few seconds
- You should feel the stretch in the back of your neck
Check out the quick and super informative video below that reviews some exercises for you.
Turtle Neck Syndrome FAQ
What causes turtle neck syndrome
As described in the beginning section, turtle neck syndrome is caused by prolonged tech use while holding your neck in a forward-flexed position. Other names for this include text neck or forward head posture.
How do you treat turtle neck syndrome?
Turtle neck syndrome can indeed be diagnosed medically but it can also be treated before it gets too severe. This will involve proactively changing your bad posture habit and making sure your neck and spine are in a neutral position. Since we all tend to use our devices for multiple hours a day (and probably more hours than we think!), limiting our usage can also help. Making sure the screen is also at eye level may also help prevent unnecessary stress on the neck area.
Can turtle neck be corrected?
Turtle neck can be corrected but the extent of your recovery relies on your consistency with habit changes and postural awareness. If you are using tech (and can’t have a workaround for it) for work or multiple hours for school, this will take some extreme diligence on your part - making sure to take breaks, stretching, correct screen levels for a neutral spine, and more.
Can turtle neck be cured?
The answer to this question is just the same as the previous question!
Turtle Neck Syndrome: Conclusion
Addressing this modern-day syndrome is multifaceted but definitely doable. As with most conditions, there usually isn’t one sole cause for its emergence - rather an accumulation of subpar lifestyle choices or a lack of awareness around them.
As you may have noticed with the stretches we introduced, they can be done anywhere and anytime - so don’t hesitate to incorporate them! And of course, as with any health condition, don’t wait to see a healthcare professional if you feel your state worsens or you need help. Seeking assistance from trained experts can also be a step worth taking - just know when to take it!
Now that you've read about turtle neck syndrome, read more about What's the Most Important Benefit of Maintaining a Neutral Posture?
 Tokas, P. Machine learning based text neck syndrome detection using Microsoft Kinect sensor. materialstoday: PROCEEDINGS, 2023.
 David, D., Giannini, C., Chiarelli, F., Mohn, A. Text neck syndrome in children and adolescents, 2021.