How much does your head weigh?

Believe it or not, the average human head weighs around 5kg or 11lbs. That’s more than most new-born babies and all that is balanced on just 7 vertebrae in your neck and supported by around 20 muscles that are responsible for moving your head around and keeping that weight in place.

However, with the advent of mobile phones, tablets, and laptops osteopaths are seeing a huge upswing in the number of people coming in with upper back and neck pain; the infamous Text Neck. But why now? What does looking at a screen have to do with your neck hurting more?

Well, this is where we get all technical. While in a neutral position, the pressure on your neck is only around 5kg, the direction of the force coming straight down the spine. But if you tilt your head forward as you would look at a screen, tablet or laptop, then those forces skyrocket very quickly.

A study from 2014¹ showed that by tilting the head forward, the forces acting on the head increase dramatically! So that even by looking down at your phone around 45°, the force your head puts on your neck increases all the way to 22kg! To put that number in perspective, that’s the same as;

  • 39 Basketballs
  • 220 Blueberry Muffins
  • 1100 Pieces of Sushi

See now, it is A LOT of weight for those small muscles to have to pull so no wonder they get tired, enduring this for hours at a time! However, there are a few easy things to do to avoid this strain mounting up too much.

First is to make sure to move your neck around a little every day, to make sure that the bones move through their full range of motion and don’t sit with their more sensitive parts squished together for too long.

Second, raise your phone up a little bit. It seems obvious, but by lifting the screen and moving your eyes to look at it instead of bending your neck means the forces aren’t put into the neck to start.

Third, and finally, a simple exercise to do each day to help stretch the muscles and ligaments! Take a seat, sitting on the edge of the chair to make sure your back is straight and comfortable. Put your hands on your knees and roll your neck around to the right, nice and slow. Three times around that way, then back around the left. It takes barely a minute but the small muscles in your neck will thank you for it!

¹ Hansraj, K. K. (2014). Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol Int25(25), 277-9.

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