The very fact that you are reading this means that you could be at risk of developing “tech neck”. As the name implies, tech neck is a term used to describe pain in the neck that results from overuse of technology. With screens becoming increasingly omnipresent in our everyday lives, we are all at risk of developing tech neck, so here are steps you can take to prevent it.
All activities can do damage to your body if you spend too long doing them. Unfortunately, with so many different activities now requiring screens to complete, we don’t tend to think of all the time we spend on them as a single activity. But regardless of what you are actually doing on your phone or computer, spending extended periods of time hunched over a screen will have detrimental effects.
Our necks are only equipped to deal with about 12 lbs of pressure, but hunching can put them under as much as 50 lbs. This five-fold increase will undoubtedly do damage, and this can be exacerbated by the angle at which we hold our heads. Setting a limit to the amount of time you spend on technology before taking a short break can help your neck rest and recover, staving off this sort of pain. Research has shown that the 52/17 rule helps prevent physical pain such as this from developing. That rule states you should take a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes of work.
One of the main reasons tech neck is so prevalent is because few of us have our screens at the proper level. As mentioned above, the angle at which we hold our head can put up to five times more pressure on our necks than usual. The most effective way to prevent this, particularly with desktop screens, is to make sure the screen is elevated enough. Ideally the screen should be directly in front of you at eye-level, so raising your screen or holding your hand up, rather than in your lap, can help keep the pressure off.
Lie Back (Slightly)
Another way to change the angle of your neck, but without having to make yourself sit up straight, is to lie down. A reclining chair can be a great way to achieve this, as just a slight slope will guide you to keep your neck back and rested, rather than straining up. However, lying completely flat and then raising your head to stare down your torso will also place strain on the neck, so don’t take things to the other extreme. Lying on your back and staring straight up is fine, if you don’t mind the risk of being slapped in the face by your phone should you drop it.
Put the Phone Down
While we already suggested taking regular breaks, putting down your phone is an important step in preventing tech neck. While taking a break and giving your neck a rest helps, it’s also important to make sure you’re using your full mobility. Something as simple as taking a walk and enjoying the views along the way can help ensure your neck is moving around a lot in as many different ways as possible, in a relatively short amount of time.
Listen for Warnings
Tech neck is a type of overuse injury, which means that it builds up slowly over time. For this reason, many of us don’t notice it, or fail to correctly identify the root of the pain. For these reasons, it is important to listen for the warning signs. Despite the fact that only the neck is in the name, pain associated with it can be experienced elsewhere.
As well as pain and stiffness in the muscles and discs of the neck, shoulder and arm pain are commonly experienced, as well as headaches. While these are all relatively vague symptoms, keeping an eye on your computer habits and the pain you experience will help you judge whether you are developing tech neck. If the pain persists, visit a physiotherapist, regardless of whether or not you think it may be tech neck.