Imagine that you are working on your computer at your desk, or possibly your laptop at a coffee shop, or maybe your mobile devices like a tablet or smartphone.
You have been working for a few hours, getting into the groove and feeling good about your productivity. Then you feel a headache coming on.
As you lift your head you realize you also have some neck pain. And, when you stop using your computer or mobile device, you feel a tingling in your fingers.
There is no reason to panic as you have just experienced a condition that has become known as “tech neck”.
What Is “Tech Neck”?
As more people use electronic devices for longer periods of time, “tech neck” has become more widespread. It is the neck pain and numbness and tingling in the fingers that occur after using a smartphone or computer for an extended period of time.
At one time it was a condition experienced by solely by computer programmers and coders.
What Causes Tech Neck?
The head, when properly aligned with the neck and looking forward, weighs about 10 pounds. The muscles, bones, and ligaments of the neck are easily holding the head and there is no strain on any part of the neck.
As the head is lowered, such as when looking at the smartphone or tablet, the neck is bending forward and the weight it is holding increases.
When looking straight down at your phone or tablet, and your chin is close to your chest, your neck is now holding about 60 pounds of weight.
This means that the muscles designed to support 10 pounds are now straining to support 60 pounds.
Do You Have “Tech Neck”?
Most people experience symptoms like soreness or stiffness of the neck and shoulders at the end of the day and don’t view it as a problem, mainly because the soreness or stiffness doesn’t happen every day.
The problem is that these symptoms can, and do, get worse over time. If you experience a sore neck, headache, or get numbness and tingling of the fingers every day, you should not ignore these symptoms of “tech neck”.
The worst case scenario is that these symptoms will progress to you losing strength in your fingers and hands.
- Soreness at the base of your neck and top of your shoulders.
- Numbness of your fingers and a tingling when you set aside the mobile device you are using.
- Pain in the neck and shoulders.
- The pain occurs only on one side of your body.
- Frequent tension muscle headaches. These are the dull pain and tender muscles in the neck, scalp, and shoulders. And you feel pressure on your forehead.
If you have had these symptoms and have ignored them, thinking that they will go away on their own, you may begin experiencing more severe symptoms such as these:
- Severe neck pain – as if something is tearing or torn.
- Loss of strength in fingers and hands and no amount of massaging or hand exercises will bring the strength back.
What Can You Do For Tech Neck?
When you begin to feel the symptoms, self-massage can and will help decrease the pain and soreness in your neck.
More importantly, correct your posture while you are using your mobile devices or laptop. And, limit the time you spend looking down at your devices.
If the symptoms are every day and include daily headaches, it is time to seek treatment from a medical professional. Most likely, physical therapy will be prescribed.
Do not ignore “tech neck” because it will not go away on its own. Be proactive and take care of your neck now so you can minimize the amount of time it will take to cure yourself of the issue.
Exercises You Can Do For Tech Neck
The minor symptoms are reasonably easy to address. Here are some of the things you can do to relieve and stop the pain and soreness.
Side neck stretch.
Sit on a chair and extend your right arm down towards the floor, place your left hand on top of your head, elbow pointing out to the side. Using your left hand, gently pull your head to the left while continuing to keep your right arm extended downward. Hold for 20 seconds then do the same for the other side.
Do a chin tuck
Sit on a chair and clasp your hands behind your head. Settle your hips firmly into your seat. Tuck your chin in toward your chest as you use your hands to begin gently pulling your head down until you feel a stretch to the back of your neck and upper back. Hold 20 then slowly release.
Tilt stretch neck exercise
You will need a hand towel. Hold the ends of the towel in each hand, wrap the middle of the towel around the back of your head, gently pull your head down and use your neck muscles to resist. Repeat 8 times. Do this gently and slowly.
Neck and hand stretch
Stand with your feet in line with your hips. Put the palm of your hand against the side of your head. Your elbow is in line with your shoulder and your upper arm is in line with the floor.
Standing straight, gently push the palm of your hand against your head, pushing your head toward your shoulder. You will feel a gentle stretch in your neck.
Hold for 10 seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position and switch sides. This should be painful – if it is, you are pushing too hard or holding longer than 10 seconds.
This is an exercise you can do during each break you take. Sit at the edge of your seat. Spread your legs hip wide and turn your feet out at a 45-degree angle. Let your arms hang loosely at your side. Have your palms facing forward. Sit up straight in a neutral position (neither leaning forward or backward). Tilt your head back so it is directly over your shoulders (align your head with your neck with your spine). Take 5 deep breaths, slowly inhaling and slowly exhaling. Repeat as needed. Doing this every hour for 1-2 minutes should provide great relief. Make it a habit and you should stop the “tech neck” symptoms.
Diagonal neck stretch
Turn your head in the direction toward your right. Tilt your head down toward your chest while on a diagonal and hold for 15 seconds. Keep your breathing steady. Do the same as you look toward your left. Repeat 2 to 4 times each side.
Use a Cervical Roll
The neck naturally has a C-shaped curve and it can be flattened or reversed by “tech neck”. A cervical roll is a simple way to get the curve back. Take a small hand towel and roll it lengthwise. Rubber band or tape it to keep the roll tight. Lay on your back on a flat surface and place the roll at the base of your neck. Don’t put it under your head. Relax and rest on the roll for 15 minutes a day.
Chiropractic adjustments help restore normal joint and skeletal functions, relieving and eliminating muscle tension. Getting a neck adjustment is a simple treatment that will help reverse the effects of “tech neck”.
Using Yoga To Treat And Prevent Tech Neck
Yoga can help counteract tech neck symptoms. Here are a few yoga postures to try:
Forward Fold With Clasp
- Stand, clasp hands behind back, and inhale deeply to open the chest.
- On the exhale, relax the knees and fold forward, letting your head fall toward the ground and gently releasing the neck.
- If you feel comfortable, bend one knee and then the other, getting more into shoulders.
- Turn head right to left to release neck. Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- Kneel with hands lightly resting on thighs.
- Lift sternum and drop chin lightly, lifting through the top back of the skull as if someone had a string on the back of your neck and was lifting you up.
- Lengthen through the back of the neck and keep shoulders down.
- Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- Begin in a kneeling position with hips over and lined up with knees, and weight supported by shins and the tops of feet.
- Place palms on the lower back, on the triangular bone the two hip bones of the pelvis, draw elbows into one another so that they aren’t winged out.
- Keep thighs pulled inward and pull shoulder blades toward one another and down back. Look to the ceiling as you lift chest upward.
- Release hands to heels and arch spine. Tip head back to keep the whole spine in extension.
- Breathe here for at least 5 deep breaths.
Tips For Preventing Tech Neck
Prevention of “tech neck” is better than treatment any day. If you begin using these tips and exercises now, you can prevent actual damage that will need medical attention.
Put down your mobile device, walk away from the laptop or desktop and go for a walk. Or stretch your arms and legs to release the tension.
It would be a great time to go for a 15-minute walk around the house, the park, the parking lot. If you have a favorite exercise like yoga or hula hoop, do it.
Take Care Of Your Skin
Just as you take care of your face with moisturizers and cleansers, do the same with your neck. Neck skin is delicate and two times thinner than the skin on your face.
This is why neck wrinkles will happen before facial wrinkles will. And, “tech neck” certainly contributes to wrinkles on the neck.
Stop resting your chin on your hands
When looking at your laptop or desktop monitor, resting your chin on your hands leads to stretching the skin around your neck. The same is true when you bend your neck to hold your phone while taking phones calls. Use headphones, prevent wrinkles.
Do these tips and exercises now and you will not only prevent “tech neck” but you will develop a healthy physical routine that will benefit your mind and body for years to come.
Take A Break
Add a new habit of setting aside your mobile device or walking away for 10 minutes, stretching your arms and neck as you move around. This can be done every hour or so and will be very helpful in relieving the pain.
Watch Your Posture
Correct your posture when using your mobile devices or computer. This article written by a Phsiotherapist has clear pictures that can get you sitting right.
How Bad Posture Can Cause Tech Neck
Your posture, the position you hold your body when standing or sitting, will determine your long-term back and neck health. Low back pain, rounded shoulders, shoulder pain, neck pain, and ultimately “tech neck” are all a result of poor posture.
For “tech neck” the most obvious posture issues are slumped shoulders and looking down at your phone with your chin just an inch or so away from your chest.
While these sound harmless, they are in fact not. In reality, the “tech neck” of stiff, sore, and slightly painful neck muscles and tired shoulder muscles also affect the rest of the body and muscle groups.
Poor, or bad, posture is the result of muscle and skeletal distortions in the neck, and lower and upper back. Most people think of poor posture as simply slumping over, but that is not necessarily the case.
While it is true that “tech neck” is caused by this slumping, other signs of poor posture include a bit of a pot belly, soreness in the hip area because slumping of the back puts pressure on the hip joints. Sitting at your computer with slumped shoulders and curve back is definitely poor posture.
Looking down at your phone or mobile device with your chin just an inch or so away from your chest is definitely poor posture.
How To Improve Your Posture & Prevent Tech Neck
Begin with understanding that when the back and neck and hips are aligned correctly, you are sitting and walking in a healthy manner.
When you have good posture while using your mobile device, computer or laptop, you will feel less tired and you will greatly reduce the likelihood of having “tech neck”.
Some things you can do to improve your posture:
Think string. Imagine that you have a string coming from the top of your head that is pulling you gently up, toward the ceiling.
Have someone tape an X on your back from shoulder to opposite hip. Then close the top of the X with a straight line of tape across your shoulders. Wear this during the day. You will become aware of how you sit, stand, and walk throughout the day and can begin retraining yourself so that you have better posture.
Avoid the slouch. Imagine that you have a book on the top of your head and that you must keep that book balanced. Do this while using your mobile devices, computer, and laptop and you will prevent the soreness that comes from “tech neck”.
Sit up straight. Align your back with the back of the chair. This will help you avoid slouching or leaning forward.
Take standing breaks. Stand up and stretch, walk around, do a little exercise, or just stand there for a few minutes. Your body was not designed to sit all day.