The Dangers of Tech Neck

After years of being told to sit up and watch your posture, did you ever wonder if it really made a difference? The answer is found in one of today’s newest pain problems: tech neck. 

You can tell by the name — tech neck or as some call it, text neck — that this condition comes from spending too much time with your head bent downward as you text, use your tablet, or work at a computer.

At Florida Pain Medicine, we’re concerned about this growing problem as we see more patients with neck pain. Read on to learn about the problem of tech neck and the steps you can take to prevent the problem.

How you develop tech neck

Tech neck develops when you look down at your electronic device. In this position, your neck flexes downward, and some patients also round their shoulders or bend over in their upper or middle back. 

Your delicate neck wasn’t built to hold your head in this position for any length of time. Occasionally looking down is fine, but when you maintain that position while texting or using electronics, it’s like holding a heavy weight in your hand with your arm stretched out in front of you: Eventually you’ll reach your limit and strain your muscles.

When your neck is bent at a 45-degree angle, your head places the equivalent of 50 pounds of pressure on your neck. An average adult head weighs about 12 pounds (envision a bowling ball), so you’re making your neck support four times more weight than normal. It isn’t a surprise that you develop a neck strain.

Learn the dangers of tech neck

The good news is that your neck pain shouldn’t cause permanent problems — as long as you correct your posture while using electronics. However, you can still end up with nerve and soft tissue conditions.

If you neck is bent enough to cause strain, it can also pinch a nerve in your neck, resulting in pain and symptoms like tingling and pain, which can radiate down your arms. The occipital nerve can also get irritated. When that happens, you’re at risk for developing headaches.

Putting that much strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your neck leads to inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Additionally, the stress on your vertebral joints may increase your risk of disc herniation and boost the rate of disc degeneration and osteoarthritis.

And don’t forget that if you also bend your upper back, those vertebrae and their supporting soft tissues are susceptible to the same problems.

Tips to avoid tech neck

Once we heal your tech neck, it’s important to take a few steps to prevent the problem from recurring. Here are our best tips for avoiding future problems:

Keep good ergonomics in mind

Always be mindful of the position of your device. You should be able to read the screen while maintaining good posture and keeping your head up. Your gaze should be parallel to the floor, not looking downward.

If possible, get a case for your tablet that props it up at a good viewing level. When using your smartphone, hold it up at chest or eye level rather than at your waist. 

Take frequent breaks

You don’t need to take a long break, but it’s important to put your device down or walk away from your computer every 15-20 minutes. Give your muscles a rest by stretching and moving for a few minutes. Listen to your body. If your neck feels stiff or sore, take it seriously, and opt for a quick break rather than continuing to text or work. 

If your neck or back pain persists, schedule an appointment at Florida Pain Medicine. We’ll help relieve your pain and more — we can recommend a series of stretching and strengthening exercises to help lower your risk of future problems. 

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