Tech Neck – An Unwanted Side Effect of Technology
We live in a high speed, ever changing world of technology. Tablets, phones, laptops and smart-watches are a staple in American life and they aren’t going away any time soon. Studies have shown that the average mobile phone user in the United States, looks down at their phone for an average of 2.7 hours per day.
Pause for a moment. Gaze down at your smartphone. Observe what happens to your neck. When you look down, your neck goes into flexion, which means that the normal C-shaped curve reverses, causing pulling in your neck. Your thoracic spine slouches, your shoulders roll forward, and your chin tilts upward into a forward head position. Your head is no longer supported over your body; rather, it is positioned far forward, putting strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. This positioning causes adverse stress on the joints, muscles, and discs if you remain in this position for more than 20 minutes.
This increased pressure in the joints then puts pressure on the nerves, discs and muscles attached to the spine. Tightness in the musculature results in pain and stiffness in the neck, arms, shoulders, and back. Furthermore, this positioning can lead to headaches.
Normally, when the ears are aligned over the center of your shoulders, the average head exerts 10-15 pounds of pressure on the neck; about the weight of a bowling ball. Imagine if your head moves forward over the center of your shoulders even by 1 inch. This 1 inch of forward head posturing can increase the weight of the head by as much as six times.
If left untreated, over time, ‘Tech Neck’ can cause long-term damage to your spinal cord- the transmitter of communication from the brain. Side effects of spinal cord strain include but are not limited to, headaches, tingling in the hands/wrists, spasms in the shoulders, arthritis and even a decreased lung capacity.
The good news is that ‘tech neck’ is a curable condition. It can be avoided with preventative care, and reversed with non-surgical, chemical-free, chiropractic care.
Symptoms of Tech Neck
– Upper back and/or neck pain when using a handheld device
– Sharp pain in the neck or shoulders at nighttime
– General shoulder pain and tightness
– Headache (intermittent or constant), which is worsened when the head is bent down towards a computer or smartphone
– Numbness and tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers
How to Prevent Tech Neck
Be mindful of your posture. When using mobile phones, computers, or tablets, keep from hunching over or slouching forward. Additionally, try this lumbar hack. Place a soft, 3-inch material, such as towel or sweatshirt, between your lower back and your chair. This gives your lumbar spine a support boost.
Position Your Devices at Eye Level
The best option, if you are able, is to get a standing workstation. A standing workstation keeps your spine straighter than if you were sitting in a chair. If this isn’t possible, elevate your monitor using a monitor stands, so that it is at eye level. This keeps your head from tilting forward, keeping you out of neck flexion.
Throughout your day, be sure to take periodic breaks from your devices; walk away from your standing desk, or stand up from your sitting desk and stretch a little bit (see below). If it is hard to remember to stop what you’re doing, set calendar reminders at regular intervals.
One of the most effective preventative measures you can take is to integrate a quick stretching routine, like the one below, into your day.
- Stand tall, arms to your side
- Reach your hands behind your back, and grasp your right wrist with your left hand
- Gently pull your left hand with your right hand and tilt your head to the left
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Switch hands and repeat
Throughout the day, periodically doing a ‘chin tuck’ can also help, as it strengthens the postural muscles in your neck. It also takes only a few seconds to do.
- Sit up straight
- Gently, do not force, nod your chin downward, towards your sternum
- Hold for a few seconds, then release
Low impact exercise
Exercises like Pilates and yoga can help your body counteract the effects of device usage. Many of the poses lengthen the front muscles of the neck, realign the shoulders, and free the lower cervical vertebrae.
Regular chiropractic care
Chiropractic care has been clinically proven to effectively prevent conditions like tech neck, as well as other painful conditions that impact the neck, spine and back. Regular chiropractic adjustments return your body to it’s natural state and help restore your optimal health.
Already have it? Chiropractic care may help!
Chiropractic care focuses on relieving the nervous system of stress caused by physical, chemical and/or emotional trauma. ‘Tech Neck’ is considered a physical trauma to the body. The forward head positioning of ‘Tech Neck’, pulls and stretches the spinal cord. The chiropractic adjustment seeks to realign the spine while also stimulating the the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body!
Chiropractors can help you develop a plan for your workstation and/or home so that you can avoid the habits that cause stretching of your spinal cord.
While ‘Tech Neck’ may be a concept for you, chiropractors are quite familiar with the signs and symptoms of tech neck, and have the competency to help you resolve it.