Does your neck hurt?
Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal alignments. Neck pain ranked fourth highest in terms of disability and economic cost. Approximately half of Americans will experience an episode of neck pain at some point in their lives.
What is tech neck caused by?
Could your phone be to blame for your neck pain from "tech neck"? That is a big yes! Phone usage has shown a dramatic rise in the amount of time one interacts with their device in recent years. These devices are being used by younger and younger kids every year.
People are using their phone for everything these days: work, games, texting, shopping, social media, dating, movies, music, and, you know, there is an app for it! However, the phone is not the problem; it's more about the posture while using the phone for extended periods of time.
How often are you at a restaurant, and do you look around to see that everyone is slouching and looking down at their phone?
I see it frequently.
How many times do you see people walking down the street holding their phone at their waist and looking down?
Yep, I see that a lot. I’ve even seen a few folks walk into a pole as they have their necks in full flexion to look down.
How many times do you catch yourself slouching over on the couch or the toilet, using your phone for extended periods in bad posture?
My point here is that bad posture in sitting or standing can cause extended periods of looking down, which can lead to neck pain and dysfunction that is labeled "tech neck."
For every inch the head moves forward on the spine, it causes approximately 10 pounds of force on the spine at the base of the neck. If you move your head forward 3 inches, you will experience 30 pounds of constant force for the duration of your bad posture.
Expect 60–90 pounds of force in the neck while looking down at your waist at your phone. In the current bad posture that is seen everywhere, our head and neck are not designed for the modern cell phone.
Why do people have neck pain after using phones or laptops?
The forward head posture is one of the main culprits when it comes to neck pain with phones and laptops. We have already discussed the phone, so let's talk about the laptop and the posture you find when most often using a laptop.
Sitting at a desk or table with the laptop on the surface immediately causes bad posture in order to see the screen. If your typing skills are up to par, then you will be looking at the laptop screen, and it is too low. If you are looking at the keyboard while you type, then be prepared for some neck pain, no matter how much you improve the ergonomics or posture.
How do I improve the ergonomics of using my laptops?
I recommend using a laptop stand to get the top of the screen as level as you can get it with your eyes. Next, you want to get a wireless keyboard and mouse to link to your laptop. Do not use the laptop keyboard on a stand if you want to maintain correct posture. This elevates your shoulder blades, arms, and hands more than we want and feeds into the neck tension.
The elbow should be around 90 degrees, with a wrist guard for both the keyboard and mouse. This allows the shoulders to stay back and down, keep the spine tall, and place the head back on top of the spine instead of sitting forward.
Can tech neck be corrected?
Yes, as long as you are willing to change some old habits and motor memories. Posture is the key! Something else to consider is stress management with deep breathing exercises, meditation, or other forms of relaxation.
Let's try some deep breathing exercises now. Try laying on your back with your knees bent and placing one hand on your chest just below your collar bones and the other on your belly button. Take an inhale and see which hand moves toward the ceiling, the hand on the chest, or the belly? Most will move more in the chest, and that is part of the tension that contributes to the neck pain from tech neck.
Now focus on taking an inhale and gently pushing your belly button towards the ceiling. On the exhale, pull your belly button towards your spine and try to stay relaxed in the chest, neck, and shoulders. Now repeat this deep belly breathing for 5 minutes without pausing. Doing this once or twice will not change anything, so let's make this a habit and try to do it daily as a form of relaxation.
How do I get rid of my tech neck naturally?
As previously discussed, improve your work posture while sitting or standing. With the phone, it is best to hold the phone up to eye level in a good posture instead of slouching to look down at the phone. This will cause fatigue in your arm, and you will also experience fatigue in your core and trunk in attempts to maintain good posture. I recommend starting a Pilates practice to get stronger in your core and postural muscles.
I started taking Pilates Reformer lessons when I was 28, and after a few months of training, I stood 2 inches taller and had a significant reduction in my neck pain. Also, I had been practicing physical therapy for 4 years at that time and had bad posture from performing manual therapy techniques on my patients all day with my head looking down.
Since then, I have had improved postural awareness when holding the correct posture while using the phone or laptop.
More information on treating and preventing tech neck can be found at Text Neck Treatment and Prevention.
CORE is ready to assist you with your neck pain. Visit our Neck Pain Physical Therapy page at Neck Pain Physical Therapists in Westlake Hills Texas for more information. or dial 512.215.4227 right now!