Think about the human head, which weighs 12 pounds on average and perches on a narrow column of seven small cervical vertebrae (your neck). It’s not difficult to imagine the strain on your neck when you spend hours looking down at an electronic device — a position that causes the pain and stiffness commonly known as tech neck.
Before this progresses into a serious neck problem, try using these tips from the team at The Vanguard Clinic.
What is tech neck, and why is it a problem?
Tech neck develops when you hold your head forward and flexed down, usually while also rounding your shoulders as you look down at an electronic device.
Your neck wasn’t built to sustain the weight of your head in this position, so it doesn’t take long to strain your muscles and supportive tissues. It’s like holding a heavy object in your hand with your arm stretched out in front of you — there’s a limit to how long you can maintain the position before your muscles object.
When your neck is bent at a 45-degree angle, which is typical when looking down at a cell phone or tablet, your head exerts the equivalent of 50 pounds of force on your neck. With that strain, it’s only a matter of time before you develop tech neck.
These are our top five tips for preventing tech neck:
Tip 1: Adjust your device to keep your head up
Did anyone ever remind you to sit up straight? That’s solid advice that reflects the importance of good posture. Keeping your head and spine properly aligned avoids strain. Strive to keep your head up and your back straight by adjusting your electronic devices so you can see them without tilting your head down.
Hold your phone up when you text or check email. Get a case that props your tablet at a comfortable viewing angle. Raise or lower your computer monitor — or your chair — so your eyes are level with the top of the screen.
Tip 2: Take frequent breaks
When you’re engaged in texting, emailing, or working, it’s easy to lose track of the time you spend in a head-bent position. To avoid tech neck, get in the habit of taking a short break every 15-20 minutes.
Put your device down or get up from your computer, walk around, stretch, or just change your position. This prevents strain on your neck, and it’s great for your overall health to avoid sitting or standing in one position for an extended time.
Tip 3: Set time limits
As an alternative to taking breaks, set time limits. Whether you have a Fitbit®, set the alarm on your phone, or you need to prop an old-fashioned alarm clock on your desk, use something to remind you to stop using your electronic device.
This tip is especially useful if you spend a lot of time using social media and texting with friends. It may seem difficult at first to disconnect, but it can protect you from serious neck strain.
Tip 4: Develop a stretching and strengthening regimen
You can relieve stress and strengthen your neck with simple exercises. In fact, practicing a brief routine is a great way to take a break.
When your head, neck and shoulders are held in a bent position, the muscles shorten and tighten, so it’s important to go slowly to avoid potentially worsening the problem. If you have a history of neck or back problems, or your tech neck has caused pain or stiffness, meet with the team at The Vanguard Clinic to get a customized regimen.
A simple way to stretch is to slowly and gently tilt your head to one side as if touching your ear to your shoulder, then straighten up and repeat it toward the other side. You may also turn your head to look to the right, then center, and then left, holding briefly in each position before relaxing.
Never roll your head around in a circle, however, as that can do more harm than good.
Tip 5: Don’t wait too long to get chiropractic care
The chiropractors and wellness experts at The Vanguard Clinic are a great resource for maintaining neck health. They can help you redesign your ergonomics and create customized exercises for your neck and posture.
They can also provide chiropractic care and therapeutic massage to relieve muscle tightness, restore proper neck alignment, and reduce pressure on your spine.
Tech neck may be a minor aggravation at first, but over time, your bent neck causes repetitive use injuries to soft tissues and leads to spine alignment problems. Effective treatment for tech neck is available at The Vanguard Clinic, so give us a call or book an appointment online.