With all that our smartphones and tablets have to offer, we end up spending a lot of time on our devices, whether it's texting, emailing, or researching. Tech neck can begin to take place. Tech neck is a term coined to describe the position of the head and neck when the device is held at the chest or waist level, eyes focused down at the screen. Tech neck is pain, soreness, and stiffness of the neck that over time can lead to a variety of health issues including muscle strains, nerve impingement, and disk injury.
When the head is in a neutral position - when the ears are lined up with the shoulders and the shoulder blades are pulled in. There is relatively little stress on the neck. When the head falls forward, the weight on the spine increases drastically. According to Dr. K Daniel Riew, director of cervical spine surgery and co-director of spine surgery in the department of orthopedic surgery at the Daniel and Jane Och Spine Hospital at New York Presbyterian, “At just 45 degrees, your neck muscles are doing the work of lifting a 50 lb. bag of potatoes.” Over time, that added pressure on your spine can create unnecessary health issues.
If you are experiencing neck pain, numbness and tension in your fingers, headaches and migraines, or pain between your shoulder blades, you may be experiencing tech neck. What happens is the more you look down at your device, the more your muscles with tighten up and put pressure on the discs. This makes the discs between your vertebrae wear out faster, and they can even bulge or rupture.
If it gets severe enough, surgery may be required. Posture re-education is an important key to decreasing the incidence of shoulder and neck pain from the effects of tech neck.
Some helpful tips to remember to ward off tech neck are:
- Make sure whatever device you are using it is at eye level.
- Take several short breaks throughout the day to get up and move around.
- Pay attention to your posture. When sitting, place a towel or soft material between your low back and the chair to help provide lumbar support.
- Make sure that your computer screen is at eye level. Even investing in a transitional, sit-stand desk so you can work from your feet a majority of the day.
- Stretch. Stretching is a great preventative measure that can be done almost anywhere and should be integrated into the day.
- Exercise. Especially if you have a desk job, taking short walks during the day or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help add some movement into your day and get oxygen moving within the body.
In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to avoid technological devices. They are useful in many aspects of our day. But, having proper posture while using them and taking frequent breaks will help your back and neck from aches and pains.
Riew, K. Daniel, Dr. (2018, July 18). How to Prevent 'Tech Neck'. Retrieved from https://healthmatters.nyp.org/how-to-prevent-tech-neck/