“Tech Neck” sounds like a gimmicky new trend ailment, but if you’ve ever experienced the neck pain that comes from overuse of your cell phone, tablet, gaming console or computer, you know it’s a real thing.
It can affect any technology users, young or old. “Repetitive postures, such as leaning your head forward or extending your arms, put strain on your neck and shoulders. This causes cellular dehydration, as your body works to hold and support this posture,” says Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT method, a simple self-treatment method for chronic pain.
Massage therapist Gina Englert, LMT says that handheld devices, especially, encourage bad posture. “Our shoulders are rounded, head bent, causing flexion of the cervical spine. Prolonged use eventually causes the anterior neck muscles and pectoral muscles to shorten. The muscles of our upper back (traps, rhomboids) and posterior neck are strained by being overstretched and not used, further causing a rounded posture.”
The most obvious solution would be to dramatically cut back on the use of technology. If you notice yourself with neck issues, this may be your best bet. But, what about those who rely on a computer or device for their livelihood? Check out our following tips for alleviating your soreness:
Set Yourself up for Comfort
As much as possible, try to set up your screen at eye level. When binge-watching videos on your tablet, be sure to support the device to avoid extra strain on your arm and neck. Just pay attention to your posture and set-up, remembering that looking down only puts more stress on your neck. Also, try sipping water throughout the day, since drinking small amounts regularly is better for you than drinking larger amounts infrequently.
Give Yourself the Gift of Time
“Every half hour, take a posture break,” Hitzmann advises. Stand up, move around, and keep your eyes away from any screens. Physiotherapist Jaime Lau recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a rest for 20 seconds, 20 feet away from the screen.
Stretch It Out
Whether including just a simple stretch or two into your daily routine or implementing some yoga, stretches help! Lau suggests doing some gentle movements of the neck – like bending side to side or turning your head – to relax the muscles. “Roll your shoulders backwards a few times with your arms relaxed by your side. Try to get in the habit of looking up after every e-mail or while waiting for a text response.”
Englert suggests doing a doorway stretch to open up the check and neck a couple of times throughout the day if working at a desk, laying on a yoga ball to open up the chest and neck in the morning or evening, and squeezing your shoulder blades together and releasing several times after spending some time on a handheld device.
Or, go ahead and use yoga! Amy Ippoliti advises three poses to counteract the effects of phone and laptop use. Gradual Cobra, Downward-Facing Dog, and Front Chest Opener are all excellent poses for this.
Be Mindful About Usage
And, of course, everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) suggestion is to cut back on your use of technology. Find a way to keep track of your use or to remind yourself when it’s time to quit, even as simple as keeping a “technology log” to show yourself how much time you really spend distracted. Jot down whether it’s necessary time (perhaps for work) or frivolous time (hello, social media) and analyze how much time you’d feel comfortable cutting it back to.
The less you rely on your devices, the more it will feel like an occasional treat rather than a “pain in the neck” addiction. You’ll notice yourself becoming less dependent, which will help you both physically and mentally.
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