woman rubbing her neck in pain while textingWe are beginning to understand the consequences of our smartphone culture, including the now-common condition we have informally called “ text neck.” In text neck, the neck muscles have become strained by a person regularly holding their neck at an angle to work on their cell phones. But can this condition lead to a more serious and more painful condition known as occipital neuralgia?

What Is Occipital Neuralgia?

The pain sensations from the back of the head are carried by the greater occipital nerves. These nerves exit the spine at the base of the neck, thread their way up the back of the neck through a number of muscles until they reach the skull.

In occipital neuralgia, these nerves are being compressed, causing serious, shooting pains that feel like they’re coming from the back of the head, though the source is actually in the neck. The nerves can be compressed by many structures in the neck, including the vertebrae as well as several different muscles.

Sometimes, people with migraines can experience inflammation of the occipital nerves, which then makes them vulnerable to compression and pinching by other structures. This is sometimes called occipital neuralgia, but it’s more technically known as migraines involving the occipital nerve.

Text Neck, Occipital Neuralgia, and TMJ

But returning to our original question: can text neck cause occipital neuralgia? Probably. At least one article talks about a person who linked his diagnosis to his use of his smartphone. And it makes sense. There are two straightforward ways that text neck can lead to occipital neuralgia.

First, the tensed muscles of the neck might be more likely to put pressure on the occipital nerves, resulting in the serious pain that people report. Second, the constant malposition of the neck vertebrae involved in working on a smartphone can lead to irritation or pinching of the occipital nerves.

This overlap of conditions is actually very similar to the way that TMJ causes many of its symptoms. The complex interweaving of bones, muscles, and nerves means that when some muscles are overactive or bones are displaced, the effects can be quite far-reaching and surprising.

TMJ treatment can also help treat text neck and prevent or even help control occipital neuralgia. By helping the muscles of the head and neck operate more efficiently, it can reduce strain and pressure on the occipital nerves, reducing or even eliminating associated pain.

If you are suffering from head and neck pain, we can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.