If you’re reading this on your phone, take a moment to note what position your neck is in. Chances are your phone is in your hand with your head/neck positioned at a 45-60 degree angle.
We have all been told from a young age to “sit up straight” and “mind your posture”, but have we ever been taught how and why it is so important? With the increase in technology use, it is even more important that we are taught how to combat this growing epidemic.
Have you ever felt neck pain? Or tension in your shoulders? If so, it might be caused by “tech neck”. Tech neck is defined by physical therapists and chiropractors as the strain of spending so much time hunched over phones, tablets and computers for increasing amounts of time.
According to a 2015 research study done by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, “an adults head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.” This means that the weight endured by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees; or the posture we adopt as we stare at our electronic devices increases the stress on the neck. According to Hansraj, this can cause excessive wear and tear that may eventually require an operation to correct it.
“Tech neck” normally causes neck pain, tightness and/or soreness. Over time, this type of posture can contribute to developing a rounded upper back, which can cause shoulder and upper back stiffness. In conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, tech neck or extended periods of time looking down at our electronic device(s) can lead to serious consequences such as:
- Sharp upper back pain
- Shoulder pain resulting in muscle spasm
- Pinched or radiating nerve pain
- Arm pain and numbness
According to Linda Vernon Scholl, a physical therapist at the University of Utah’s Orthopedic Center, tech neck is an epidemic that is affecting all generations and is becoming an increasing problem with younger people as they are seeking treatment for neck and back pain. Scholl states that there are strengthening exercises for the upper back, chest, shoulder and neck can help correct poor posture and avoid wreaking havoc on the back and neck. They include:
- Proper spinal alignment by keeping your ears over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your hips over your ankles;
- Keep your head up and look down at your electronic device with your eyes. If needed, raise your arms up to bring the phone or tablet closer to eye level.
- While watching TV or sitting at a laptop, sit up straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together to strengthen the upper back.
- Find a doorway and put your arms on either side of it at a comfortable level. Lean into it to stretch your chest. Hold that for about 30 seconds.
Try to limit your electronic device usage to a couple of hours a day.
Hansraj, Ken, MD, (2018), New York Spine Surgery www.realspinesurgery.com
Wenslow, Ben, (2018, May 1), Sit Up Straight
All American Healthcare, (2015, March 26), Mobile Devices Wrecking Spines allamericanhealthcare.net
Steelcase.com, (2013, March 12), New Postures Driven by Mobile Technology www.steelcase.com