Whether you’re working from home or simply spending more time video chatting with friends and family during the pandemic, chances are you’re relying on screens more than ever.
With all that time watching and scrolling, symptoms of “tech neck” can quickly creep up, making screen time a pain.
Tech neck results from the body position we often subconsciously assume when looking at screens. In this position, your chin comes forward, your shoulders round forward, and often your neck is flexed to look down at your phone, keyboard, and/or computer for an extended period of time.
The unnatural position causes micro-trauma and stress to the upper back and neck area, and leads to pain and discomfort. Eventually, it can cause poor posture.
At Keet Bester, we often see patients with tech neck who often present with the following:
- neck and upper back pain and stiffness
- trap pain
- muscle spasms
- localised shoulder pain
One can experience aching, burning, stabbing, throbbing, and even numbness and tingling all the way down to their hands.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in patients with signs and symptoms of tech neck. While people are becoming more aware of the condition, it deserves more attention.
Most people don’t think about the way they are sitting or take corrective action until they are in pain. Because it can take months to develop neck and or upper back pain, and even longer to really change one’s posture, it’s easy to form bad habits in our posture while using our devices.
Most people do not have the ergonomically correct chairs made for working on a computer. Additionally, working on laptops instead of desktops can cause you to lean over the screen. Not to mention, the stress everyone is under in these uncertain times can definitely lead to increased physical tension in your body and increased instances of tech neck.
Here are a few ways to ward off the condition include the following:
1. Rethink your workstation
Because many home offices are dining room tables, sofas, and beds, they don’t provide an environment for good postural positioning. We frequently advise our patients on setting up a more proper workstation to avoid injury or decrease their current pain. Visiting a physical therapist or physical medicine and rehabilitation physician to help assess and improve your workstation.
2. Pay attention to your posture
Sit with your shoulders against the back of your chair and placing your keyboard on your lap to prevent you from bringing your chin and shoulders forward. Most people lean over their desk to type and this is the main culprit of tech neck.
3. Take breaks
Take a break from the computer every 30 minutes to an hour. During these breaks, stretch the neck and shoulders. For tech neck due to repetitive smartphone use, take frequent breaks and use less. If watching movies or doing other activities for a long time, you should get a cellphone holder so the phone can be placed at eye level.
Frequent movement and stretching is very beneficial for the body. It keeps blood flowing and prevents muscles and joints from getting stiff. If you leave your neck in one position too long, you can develop pain and discomfort. And if not corrected, after a while, one can develop serious medical issues that result in prolonged or permanent pain and disability.
4. Perform stretches
Every hour, perform “Bruegger” exercises. To do this, sit up straight at the end of your chair with your arms extended out and behind your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, with your palms facing up, and tuck in your chin so your head is over your body. Hold this position for 30 seconds at a time while taking deep breaths. Then repeat three to four times. Bands can also be used to strengthen your upper back by performing exercises like scapula rows.
However, when most people have tightness or pain in their neck, they stretch their neck by touching their chin to their chest. This is the worst thing you can do for tech neck. Tech neck causes an elongation with weakness to the posterior neck muscles. In fact, anyone with tech neck should do the opposite. Stretch the front part of your neck and strengthen, not stretch, the back part of your neck.