Text neck syndrome is endemic in the modern era. The body adapts to positions it spends most time in. People who engage in excessive mobile device usage tilt their heads to see the screen. That strains the neck and spine until posture gets distorted. If you find yourself in such a state, here’s an easy text neck fix recipe. The ingredients are a mid-back ergonomic chair (without a headrest) and moderate discipline.
In 2022, around 87% of the global population use mobile phones. When using one, most users tilt their heads 45°. This exerts 50 pounds of extra pressure on the neck and shoulders (5 times more than normal).
Over a year, the average user will spend around 1400 hours(1) in texting positions (around 3 hours per day). The problem is that when the body holds itself in certain positions, the brain creates muscle memories.
These help it to coordinate movements with greater efficiency. With enough repetition, the brain can carry out tasks on auto-pilot — without conscious effort. Muscle memory can help or hinder.
On the positive side, muscle memory simplifies complex tasks. For example, it helps people to type on a keyboard without needing to look. On the downside, muscle memory also adapts to bad habits.
For example, craning your neck at a 45° angle for 3 hours every day causes Text Neck Syndrome. Early symptoms include chronic migraines, neck and shoulder stiffness, tingling in the upper limbs, and eye pain.
Left unchecked, this becomes a downward spiral of chronic fatigue, spinal disc degeneration, and worse.
This article explains how to reverse these symptoms using ergonomic science and muscle memory. You’ll need a mid-back ergonomic chair and 3-5 days of moderate discipline.
Posture Therapy Using Muscle Memory
Poor postures cause stiffness in the body’s fascia system. This is a fibrous matrix that lays over the organs, muscles, and bones. As muscles adapt to good or bad postures, fascia reacts to the physical force by producing collagen. This makes fascia stronger and thicker(2).
With good posture, fascia hardens around muscles to fortify healthy positions. Then, sitting up straight becomes effortless. But with poor posture, the fascial network hardens in the wrong spots.
For instance, desk workers often suffer from tight lower backs in non-ergonomic chairs. As another example, text neck syndrome distorts and then hardens soft tissues and joints in the cervical spine. That places intense pressure on the spinal cord and nearby nerve roots(3).
Strategy: Balance Head Above Shoulders
An adult human head weighs around 10-12 pounds. Flexing the head forward to operate a smartphone places 50-60 pounds of force on the neck.
Holding this position for long periods causes severe neck strain. That first manifests as chronic headaches and shoulder pain. Over time, it also causes lower back pain.
The average smartphone user spends 3 hours per day craning their necks. To override that, spend four hours per day sitting in healthy neutral positions. These positions keep the head balanced evenly over the shoulders. Then, surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments work as intended to hold the head upright.
With a few days of practice, fascia systems will adapt by hardening along necessary stress points. Eventually, muscle memory will kick in every time you sit down. Then, without conscious effort, you’ll sit with crisp, clean, effortless postures as a habit.
When you get out of your chair, those posture habits cross over as well. Instead of standing with an ugly text-neck slouch, your body will instinctively align into its optimal standing position.
Method: Mid-Back Chair Without Headrest
A healthy standing position balances the head above the shoulders. It also produces a lower back curve of 25-45°. Sitting without support narrows the curve by half. Then, back muscles must work harder to hold the spine upright. When muscles tire, good posture collapses.
All chairs that qualify as ergonomic address this problem with the same trio of features. Adjustable arms protect the neck and shoulders. Adjustable lumbar support maintains a healthy lower back curve. A reclining backrest lets you customize support angles.
Combined, these features help users maintain healthy neutral positions.
Headrests Distort Healthy Neck Postures
Adding a headrest makes a seat more comfortable. However, it also psychologically compels users to tilt the neck back — rather than balance it above the shoulders.
That forces the thorax to rotate rearward(4). As a result, the lumbar spine flattens.
Adding lumbar support solves the lumbar issue but not the thoracic one. Many accept this tradeoff because sitting with a headrest allows for more relaxing positions. However, to fix text neck, good posture comes before decadent comfort.
The Herman Miller Mid-Back Method
Herman Miller’s Aeron and Embody are widely regarded as the best mid-back ergonomic chairs in the world. Neither has a headrest option. Herman Miller doesn’t recommend using third-party ones either.
The company insists that its chairs are designed to position both your spine and head in a healthy standing position. To that end, “leaning your head back on a headrest while in an upright position would be improper posture…”
Luckily, you don’t need a pricey Herman Miller chair to make this happen — any mid-back chair with adjustable lumbar support will do.
Method For ANY Mid-Back Chair
The Herman Miller method can work with any type of ergonomic chair, including gaming chairs. For instance, most pro esports players remove their gaming chair headrests during gameplay. However, even without a headrest, the tall backrest incites a psychological compulsion to tilt the head back.
A 2018 aircraft seat comfort study tested the difference between seats with and without headrests(5). In seats without headrests, users would instinctively sit with their heads balanced above the shoulders.
Adding a headrest (or tall backrest) adds an expectation for more comfort. As a result, users reflexively tilt their heads back in full-back chairs.
Balance Your Head While Sitting
This method works best with mid-back ergonomic office chairs. A full-back gaming chair will work — but with less precision.
- Remove your chair’s headrest. That eliminates the temptation to tilt your head.
- Focus on sitting in crisp neutral postures; keep your head balanced above the shoulders.
- Maintain your discipline until muscle memory kicks in. Then, perfect postures will enforce themselves on autopilot.
Best Text Neck Posture Therapy Chairs
Herman Miller’s mid-back ergonomic chairs are the gold standard in this genre. All are designed to keep the head at a perfect 0° angle at all times. After a few days of sitting this way, muscle memory will start locking down this position as your default!
Herman Miller Embody
The very best Herman Miller chair for a sure 0° head tilt is the Embody. Most ergonomic chairs use lower back lumbar support to keep the back straight. In contrast, the Embody prioritizes upper back support to the thoracic spine.
That places support exactly where you need it to keep your head on the centerline. That plus a synchronous seat tilt helps to keep the head balanced through all ranges of motion.
Before getting too excited, this is a pricey chair that’s tricky to configure. If you don’t have experience using ergonomic chairs, this might be too advanced for your level.
Learn more: Embody Gaming Chair Review.
The Embody Office Edition is also available from Herman Miller for $1795.
Herman Miller Aeron
Herman Miller’s iconic Aeron chair uses a traditional lumbar support concept. Simply plant your feet, fit the lumbar support to your lower back, and sit straight.
It’s easy to grasp and almost foolproof. No matter how you try to sit, it will keep you in crisp postures with a balanced head!
The Aeron also has better seat tilting functions than the Embody. When you lean back, the seat tilts up. If you lean forward, it tilts down.
These angles keep your things parallel to the floor through all ranges of motion. That provides more stability to keep your head on the centerline.
Learn more: Aeron Gaming Chair Review.
The Aeron Remastered (office edition) is also available from Herman Miller for $1195-$2195.
ANY Mid-Back Ergonomic Chair
If you can’t afford a pricey Herman Miller chair, any mid-back chair with the needed features will do. Make sure it has adjustable armrests, adjustable lumbar support, and a reclining backrest.
Several ergonomic chairs under $300 qualify. One of the cheapest is the Staples Hyken. It has 1D arms, height-adjustable lumbar support, and a 90-140° recline range. For text neck relief, remove the headrest and keep your head balanced.
Other cheap mid-back options: Best Ergonomic Chairs Under $300.
The biggest difference between racing-style gaming chairs and ergo office chairs is the backrest style. The former has a full-back style that encourages a rear neck tilt. The latter’s mid-back style encourages the head to balance atop the shoulders.
If you spend long periods texting with a tilted head, you likely suffer from neck, back, or shoulder pain. But the only ergonomic arm support systems available are all prototypes.
That leaves text-neck posture therapy with a mid-back ergonomic chair as the best usable corrective measure. Many studies show that when given clear biomechanical targets, people can train themselves into healthy positions.
This article provides instructions on how to adopt a 0° head tilt. With a few days of disciplined effort, muscles will adapt. That will offload massive strain on the neck and shoulders.
Eventually, your fascial system will harden around your new posture. So if you want to fix your text neck, this article explains how.
To learn more about using muscle memory to your advantage, check this feature:
- Pablo Robles. ‘Why your smartphone is causing you text neck syndrome’. January 25, 2019. https://multimedia.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2183329/text-neck/index.html, (accessed 10 April 2022).
- Chris Watts. ‘What is fascial fitness, and why should we care?’ News & Trends, July 11, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/3018002/what-fascial-fitness-and-why-should-we-care, (accessed 10 April 2022).
- ‘Text Neck: Anatomy of a Modern Spine Condition’. June 21, 2021. https://www.primalpictures.com/blogs/text-neck-anatomy-modern-spine-condition/, (accessed 10 April 2022).
- Matthew P Reed, et al. ‘Posture and belt fit in reclined passenger seats’, Traffic Injury Prevention 20(sup1):S38-S42, June 2019. DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2019.1630733, (accessed 10 April 2022).
- M. Smulders, et al. ‘Neck posture and muscle activity in a reclined business class aircraft seat’. Applied Ergonomics Volume 79, September 2019, Pages 25-37. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2018.12.014, (accessed 10 April 2022).