How often do you spend looking at your phone, tablet or laptop? Studies suggest we look at our phone around 2-4hrs per day, and those times are excluding tablet and laptop use. That’s a lot of time spent looking down.
Tech neck is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your phone/tablet/laptop too frequently and for long periods of time.
Looking down at your screen causes you to hunch forward – flexing your neck and upper back, and bringing your shoulders forward (protracted). Prolonged periods in this position causes your pectoral muscles in the chest to become tight, and your rhomboids and trapezius (back muscles) to become weak resulting in an exaggerated curve in the upper back (thoracic kyphosis), with shoulders elevated and protracted forward. These imbalances cause the head to shift forwards, in front of your centre of gravity, placing extra strain on the neck, back and shoulders.
Your head weighs around 5kgs, but look at the image below and see how your posture affects the load on your spine. The further forward you tilt your head, the greater the force exerted on your neck.
Symptoms associated with Tech Neck:
- Neck and upper back pain, ranging from a chronic dull nagging pain to sharp acute episodes
- Muscle spasms and tension around the neck and shoulders
- Shoulder pain and tightness as a result of muscular imbalances
- If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms (pins and needles, numbness and weakness) can radiate down the arm into the hand
How to treat tech neck?
Prevention is key!
- Adjust your equipment according to your posture – not your posture to your equipment. Hold your phone at eye level to avoid looking down and bending your head forward. Raise laptop and computer screens to eye level and make sure your desk is ergonomically set up.
- Try to cut back your phone use. Quick responses to emails etc. are fine, but if you find you need to write someone a detailed email, read a long article or watch a long video, switch to your computer.
- Take frequent breaks from your phone/device. Set an alarm for every 20-30 minutes to remind you to get up, stretch and walk about.
- Seek treatment for pain. Treatment, including manual therapy such as osteopathy, will involve a combination of soft tissue massage, mobilisations, manipulations and exercise prescription to rebalance the body and reduce the strain. We can reduce tension in the tight muscles, increase movement in restricted joints in the neck and back and help improve overall posture.
- A personalised exercise rehabilitation programme will include stretches and strengthening exercises for the neck, shoulders and upper back to improve posture, minimise strain on the neck and support the weight of the head.