If you’re reading this with your head hanging over your phone, then don’t stop reading. You need to read further because you are unknowingly feeling the effects of a “tech neck.”
What’s “tech neck,” you ask? According to Healthline, “tech neck” results from the body position we often subconsciously assume when looking at screens [where] your chin comes forward, your shoulders round forward, and often your neck is flexed to look down at your phone, keyboard, and/or computer for an extended period of time.”
In this day of Zoom meetings and distance learning, it’s hard to catch ourselves not craning over our devices. Still, it’s important to take notice when we do, as sticking to this poor position for a prolonged period may result in more than just passing pains.
According to Dr. Renee Enriquez, attending physician and assistant professor for the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at UT Southwestern Medical Center, “tech neck” victims often show symptoms of neck stiffness, upper back and trap pains, localized shoulder pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and even a lack of sensation.
“One can experience aching, burning, stabbing, throbbing, and even numbness and tingling all the way down to their hands,” Enriquez explained. Probably the worst that tech neck could lead to is spinal disc damage or a slipped or herniated disc. And yes, it will require you to go under the knife.
“Sit up straight!” sounds like a bit of advice shouted by our moms when we were kids. Little did we know we’d need as adults instead. Aside from adjusting our posture, here are a few other tips to beat “tech neck” little by little.
Adjust your work area
This is the only tip that will cost you money, but consider these items a lifetime investment.
Ideally, you’d want a work station where your typing position leaves your arms at a ninety-degree angle (alternatively, the table should be level with your waist), your vision is trained at eye level, and your feet are placed squarely on the ground.
Additionally, your seating position should be reclined at around 25-30 degrees. You might also want to invest in an office chair with good lumbar support, or a separate backrest to prevent slouching.
Take a break regularly
For Dr. Enriquez, “motion is lotion.” Thus, stepping away from your station for a good five minutes already does wonders to your tech neck. Walk around, rest your eyes, and clear your mind before diving back to your work.
While taking your break, it might help to drink a glass of water. Not only does this keep you hydrated, but it also stimulates the production of synovial fluid, the one in charge of lubricating your cartilages.
Stretch and strengthen
There are dozens of simple stretching exercises that you can do. Pulling your arms back and squeezing your shoulder blades, tucking your chin forward and back, stretching your traps and pecs, and doing exaggerated nods all help relieve tension off your tech neck.
The only stretching exercise you need to be wary about is bringing your chin down to touch your chest. “This is the worst thing you can do for tech neck. Tech neck causes an elongation with weakness to the posterior neck muscles,” Dr. Enriquez shared.
It’s so simple, yet so understated. Breathing — specifically deep breathing — has loads of benefits to our weary joints when we remember to do it. It stimulates blood flow, bringing more oxygen to our muscles which helps them release and relax. It also deactivates our stress receptors, reducing overall tension.
Not to mention breathing slows down our mental processes to a point where we can remember to adjust our poor posture. Just chill every now and then!
Work can be a “pain in the neck,” but that doesn’t mean it has to be in a literal sense. Remember, our health always comes first above all else.