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Do You Have “Tech Neck”?

Do You Have “Tech Neck”?

If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet, check your neck. You probably don’t realize that when you’re bent over for longer periods of time, your neck muscles can get stressed, leading to neck and shoulder pain, headaches, stiffness, and tension. Sound familiar? This dilemma has a name – “tech neck” – and it’s a growing issue as Americans spend more and more time on mobile devices (nearly 6 hours daily).

If you walk around any high school or college, you’ll see young people hunched over, on their phones. That 45-degree angle creates nearly 50 pounds of additional strain on the neck muscles! (the average human head weight 10 pounds on its own) The more you look down, the more the muscles, tendons and ligaments have to work to keep your head up.

In addition to feeling stiffness or pain between your shoulder blades, you could end up with nerve irritation or inflammation. When the neck muscles tighten repeatedly, it can also put more pressure on the discs, which can lead to other serious issues.

It’s not realistic to ditch using mobile devices altogether, but here are some tips to prevent and manage overuse issues:

  • Aerobic exercise – Regular cardio gets the blood flowing to tired muscles and can help ease tension in the neck.
  • Pay attention to your wrist – many people use activity trackers that remind you get up every hour and to achieve a certain number of steps. Stick to that – it gets you up and moving and gives your neck a break.
  • Stretch regularly – Try some simple movements like gentle neck rotations or bending your head side-to-side with a gentle hold at your end range. You should feel a strong, but comfortable stretch - stretches should never be painful! Shoulder rolls focusing on the backward motion are also helpful to release tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. Shoulder blade squeezes and chin tucks (trying to bring your ear in line with your shoulder) will also help to wake up the posture muscles and decrease stress and strain on the neck.
  • Hold your phone differently – Just being aware of your slouched-over posture and making an effort put your screen closer to eye level can make a difference.

If your “tech neck” issues persist even after these modifications, talk to your healthcare provider. There are other resources, including physical therapy, that can help you minimize pain and strengthen your neck and shoulders.