Technology's Latest Wrinkle: How Texting Is Aging Your Neck

Technology's Latest Wrinkle: How Texting Is Aging Your Neck
Woman texting on your cell phone

When Sheryl Sandberg advised us to “lean in,” she may not have considered all the ramifications. ‘Cause frankly, all that leanin’ (over the computer, over the tablet, over the cell phone) has given everyone another reason to go full-Ephron and admit that we, too are unhappy about our necks. Why? Text neck.

What is text neck?

Text neck (also called tech neck) is the phenomena of excessive and premature folds, wrinkles and sagging which extends along the middle of the neck from all those hours gazing into your cell phone, tablet or computer during the day.

You: But I don’t spend that much time on my phone!
Us: Um… really?

‘Cause the combined research of some pretty fancy sources (Neilson, Pew Research Center, etc.) suggests that the average person spends over four hours a day on their mobile devices. Collectively over 5 years of the average adult’s life craning over social media alone. More if you happen to be under 35. That’s a lot of neck crunching. So what was that you said about not spending that much time on the your phone?

But this isn’t a lecture on your relationship with technology—you already know you spend too much time on your phone, now don’t you? Instead, this is a deep dive into what has become the tech-age turkey waddle—text neck. What it is, why it matters and what you can do about it. And don’t worry, we’ll refrain from doling out such unrealistic and tech-unfriendly advice as “stop looking at your phone.” We’re simply too good for that. Oh wait, look what we did just there. I guess we’re not too good for that after all. Moving on.

Is text neck really that big a deal?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where our appearance didn’t make one lick of difference as to how we perceive ourselves and others? Yeah. It would. The truth, though, is that the effects of aging (and repetitive movements) can do a number on our self-esteem and the way that other people see us. So, yeah… that’s a big deal. And speaking of big deals, it’s not just the outward appearance of text neck you should worry about. There can be actual physical ramifications to all that neck craning.

We’re not trying to create a rift in your love affair with technology. Really we’re not. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least suggest—in all seriousness—the possibility of limiting your time craning over your device. There’s even an app for that! You see, the human head weighs approximately ten pounds, so continuously tilting it forward can not only wreck repetitive havoc on the wrinkles of the neck, it can also lead to serious cervical strain. The fact that the term “text neck” was coined by a chiropractor (Dr. Dean L. Fishman), should be the knock-out-punch that proves that all that craning can lead to potentially irreversible trouble. Again, totally big deal.

What can you do about text neck?

Did we mention get off your phone? Just kidding. Between the alarm clock, reminders, mapping apps, constructing your next sure-to-go-viral tweet, and watching cat videos during those looong work-related conference calls—#kidding—there’s really no chance that you’ll put your phone aside. But if the appearance of “text neck” is what’s keeping you down, plastic surgeon’s have a variety of techniques with which to address the wrinkling and sagging associated with all that craning. Let’s unpack.

Noninvasive treatments for text neck:

  • Topical treatments: For those experiencing the very first signs of text neck, regular use of moisturizer, sunscreen and a topical treatment containing retinol can help prevent the ropey lines from getting worse. (PSA: the skin on the neck tends to be thinner and can be more sensitive to products than the face. Be warned.) Do topicals always work? No. Is it worth a shot, particularly if you’re text neck is in it’s infantile stages? Yes. And these things should be a regular part of your skincare regime anyway. So #winwin.

  • Injectables: Some cases of text neck can be treated with Botox to soften the muscle of the neck, and/or dermal filler to fill the ropey lines and make them less noticeable. Your plastic surgeon is the best source for information on whether or not injectable treatments can offer the results you’re looking for.
  • Ultrasound therapy: The use of noninvasive treatments like Ultherapy can help treat text neck by harnessing ultrasound technology in tandem with the bodies ability to heal itself. By stimulating the deep layers of the skin, these treatments encourage the growth of elastin and collagen which, in turn, can reduce the appearance of excess wrinkling and gradually lift and tighten a sagging neck and jowl. The best results take about 3 months to reveal themselves, and multiple treatments are recommended, but with minimal downtime and risk, this is sometimes a good alternative to something more invasive.
  • Laser Therapy: Fractional (CO2) and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) lasers are also being used to address the creases and wrinkles associated with text neck. Through the use of heat, these lasers are able to treat deeper wrinkling without damaging the outer layers of the skin. The laser damages the cells deep in the dermis and your body’s natural healing response does the rest. This too encourages a growth in collagen and elastin and results in a smoothing and lifting effect. It’s worth discussing with your doctor whether laser technology is an option for you.

Surgical procedures that treat text neck.

  • Neck Liposuction: Removing excess fat out of the neck via liposuction can help decrease the folding that occurs when you’re happily plonking away on your device. The fact that it’s an outpatient procedure with a quick recovery and minimal downtime, makes it a good option for patients with good skin laxity, but may not be the right choice for those who have a lot of sagging in the area. Liposuction is also used in tandem with more invasive surgical procedures.
  • Neck Lift: Also know as platysmaplasty or cervicoplasty, this surgical procedure is used to treat moderate to advanced wrinkling and sagging of the neck, the dreaded turkey wattle, and patients with an overly prominent platysma muscle. Depending on the type of neck lift your surgeon recommends, this procedure can tighten the skin and underlying neck bands, returning your neck to its former swan-like glory. Since this is a surgical procedure, there is more risk and downtime—a typical recovery can take several weeks—but if your text neck has reached the point of no return, it may be the best option and provide you with the best (and most permanent) result.

Now you know everything you need to know about text neck—and maybe some stuff you didn’t want to know. So if the excess wrinkling and sagging affiliated with all that phone use is getting you down, we suggest you crane your neck towards your cell phone one more time, and make an appointment to chat with your board-certified plastic surgeon who is the best resource of what type of treatment might be right for you. (And then, seriously, put your phone down.)