Is your technology giving you a pain in the neck? Discover what ‘tech neck’ is and how to relieve those stubborn symptoms.
Do you find yourself rubbing your neck or shoulders after spending time looking at either your phone or computer? You may be dealing with “tech neck,” a condition that leaves you with pain, soreness, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
Over time, what starts out as minor discomfort can lead to more serious issues including muscle strains, nerve impingement, and other conditions that impact the spine.
“Human beings are meant to be upright. We’re not designed to flex our neck down and forward for extended periods of time,” explains Corey Brown, physical therapist and Director of Rehabilitation Medicine for St. Joseph’s Health. “Doing so applies stress and strain on at-risk body parts of the cervical spine. If these postures are not corrected, minor discomfort caused by tech neck can develop into injuries that may require surgical intervention.”
Here’s how to keep symptoms associated with tech neck at bay and ways to change behaviors that cause it.
- Keep Devices at Eye Level
Reduce neck strain by keeping your devices – both your computer and smartphone – at eye level. If your computer is the issue, use a monitor stand. If your smartphone is the culprit, hold your phone out in front of you so that you are face-to-face with your device, rather than looking down.
- Keep Good Posture
Establish your workstation so that it promotes good posture. Avoid sitting on stools. Instead, use a chair that supports your lumbar spine and reduces muscle fatigue.
- Spread Out Your Screen Time
If your job doesn’t require you to stare at a screen for hours on end, conduct your electronic tasks incrementally. You’ll avoid cramming digital tasks in bulk and spending hours looking at your computer screen or smartphone device. If helpful, set reminders on your devices for different digital tasks throughout the day.
- Keep Hydrated
The disks in your spine are composed largely of water, so it is essential to stay hydrated throughout your busy day. Doing so is fundamental to keeping the spinal disks healthy and pliable.
Stretching is not only quick, easy and efficient, but it’s also beneficial to your joints and muscles, and helps to prevent injuries. Try the “corner stretch”:
- Stand facing a corner with your feet together approximately 2 feet from the wall
- Place your forearms on each wall and keep your elbows just below shoulder height
- Lean forward as far as possible and hold for 30 seconds to a minute
If you need an evaluation for tech neck, reach out to your primary care physician or an orthopedist. Physical therapy may be recommended to help you alleviate pain and prevent further injury. Need to find a primary care physician? Visit www.findadoctor.org.