February 25, 2016
Like most things you read, you’re looking at this blog on some kind of electronic device, whether it’s a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or desk top computer. As more people spend more time looking down at devices, neck pain is on the rise—so much so that the condition now has a diagnosis: tech neck.
Read on for some tips to prevent your devices from causing a pain in the neck.
What Causes Tech Neck?
As you look down at devices to read and text for lengthy periods of time, your head angles forward, causing increased weight on the joints in your neck. Over time, this can cause pain in your neck and shoulders, as well as headaches. It can also lead to arthritis, muscle strain, pinched nerves, and herniated discs.
Believe it or not, you can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck when you bend it down to look at electronic devices. I often use a bowling ball analogy to explain this to my patients:
Imagine holding a bowling ball with two hands, close to your body, like you would right before rolling the ball down the lane. Now, think about holding the bowling ball in front of your body with your arms stretched straight out. Holding the ball close to your body is much easier. The same is true with your head. When it is in front of your body, your neck muscles have to work much harder to hold it up.
Tips To Combat Tech Neck
Limit the time you use electronic devices: This is the easiest and most effective fix for tech neck. Unplug a bit. It will do your neck good. At work, try to take a 1-2 minute break for every hour you spend at the computer. As much as possible, adjust your computer screen and hold your devices to be at eye level.
Consider using lumbar, thoracic, and/or foot supports to improve your sitting posture. Use a straight back chair with support at your lower and upper back as well as under your feet. Hold your device at eye level to avoid looking down.
Try these exercises
Neck stretches: Place your knuckles or fingertips on the front of your chin and gently push straight back (not up or down).
Rotation: Place one hand on the side of your face to help rotate your head the opposite direction. Keep your chin level. You’ll feel a light stretch on either side of your upper neck.
Lateral Flexion: Reach sideways over your head and gently pull your head toward your shoulder. You’ll feel a light pulling sensation on the opposite side of your neck.
Bruegger Exercise: Stand up straight. Wrap an exercise band around your hands, keeping your elbows at 90-degree angles. Pull your hands apart slowly, straightening out your elbows. Hold for 2 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat for 2 minutes or until you feel you are no longer able to complete the repetitions smoothly.
Make these tips part of your daily routine and before long, you’ll start to notice a difference.
Note: If you experience sudden neck pain (with or without trauma, headache, or numbness in the arm) that doesn’t get better with rest, posture changes, or use of over-the-counter-medicine, call your doctor.