Studies show that we spend an average of five hours a day on our phone and for some of us,
this number can be even higher. For many of us, your typical day looks like this: you get to
work, where you’re sitting at a desk in front of a computer for eight hours. You then read an e-
book on your tablet while commuting home. Once home, you’re checking your e-mails and
social media in bed before turning in for the night. If this sounds relatable, you’re at a high risk
of being affected by tech neck. The more you use these devices, the greater the chance is that
you will develop tech neck.
Tech neck is a recently coined term for the neck pain attributed from poor posture. As we
become more reliant on technological devices such as computers and cell phones, the
associated aches and pains from using these devices tend to increase. Tech neck compresses
the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding your neck and creates muscle imbalances. This
in turn results in tightness and neck and shoulder tension and can result in what is called upper
crossed syndrome, which occurs when muscles in the neck, shoulders and chest become
deformed due to poor posture.
Many are also afflicted with forward head posture. Symptoms of forward head posture include
neck and back pain, muscle spasms, headaches and TMJ. It can be caused by a wide variety of
factors, including poor posture, sleeping with your head propped too high on a pillow,
prolonged computer-use and carrying heavy purses and backpacks.
There is a simple test that can be done to see if you have forward head posture. First, stand
against a wall as if you were getting measured for height. If your head doesn’t touch the wall,
your head is too forward and is positioned in front of the body instead of in line with the body.
Technically, this means your head is at least an inch over the first vertebrae of your spine which
can throw off the alignment of your body. Many people are afflicted with forward head
posture, with studies showing more than 60% of people.
Since technology is a big part of our day-to-day lives, we must learn to use computers and cell
phones in a healthy and safe manner and take precautionary measures to prevent aches and
pains that can subsequently come from their use. Below, we outline tips on how you can
combat tech neck.
Maintaining good posture is important and while we all know that, we are not always conscious
of it, especially when we’re at work. When sitting at a desk, you want to ensure that both feet
are flat on the ground and that your hips, shoulders and neck are all aligned. Your knees should
be at the same level as your hips. If you lean forward, it will place a lot of stress on your spine.
In fact, for every inch you lean forward towards your computer screen, it places ten pounds of
pressure on your spine. One way to combat slouching is to ensure that your computer monitor
is eye-level. Also, your computer monitor should be 18 to 24 inches to prevent you from leaning
forward towards your screen. Try to be aware of your posture and if you find yourself
slouching, remind yourself to sit up straight.
Ever wake up in the morning, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after stretching your arms
above your head before rolling out of bed? It feels great, right? Well that is because your
muscles are tight, especially if you find yourself sleeping in an awkward position all night or
sitting at a desk in the same slumped position for hours. Stretching will get the blood flowing
while it loosens the muscles. It also releases endorphins. Do yourself a favor and start your day
with a quick stretch – even five minutes will have a great impact and leave you feeling recharged.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Your spinal discs are comprised of mostly water and by staying hydrated, your discs stay healthy
and flexible. On a daily basis, we should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water.
Raise Your Screen
You wouldn’t want to look down on your computer screen for extended periods of time, so why
do it while you’re on your phone? It may feel awkward but holding your phone at eye-level
while you’re on it will prevent your neck from looking down which will help significantly. This
way, no added pressure will be placed on your spine.
Take a Break
Try to take a break every hour, even if it is just a couple minutes. Your mind and body will thank
you. This is especially important if you’re sitting in the same position all day.
Tech Neck Exercises
To counteract the muscle imbalances caused by slouching forward, try these exercises at home:
Neck Flexion Stretch. This simple exercise stretches and strengthens the neck muscles and can
be done right at your desk. Place two fingers on your chin and lower your head so that your
chin is on your chest and place one of your hands behind your head. Slowly place pressure on
the back of your head until you feel the stretch and hold it for 30 seconds. Repeat these steps
This one is super easy and helps to counteract the aches from hunching forward while sitting.
Simply squeeze your shoulder blades inwards as if you they are going to meet and place your
shoulders back. Your chest should be outwards and your shoulder blades inwards. You should
feel the stretch as it activates your lower and mid trapezius. Hold this position for 30 seconds
and rest. Repeat a few times.
Mid Scalene Stretch
Start in a seated or standing position. Place your right hand on the left side of your head. While
looking forward, bring your head towards your right shoulder as if you were to rest your ear
there. Repeat on the other side with your left hand on the right side of your head and bring
your head down to the left.
If your neck pain is interfering with your day-to-day life, we are here to help. Our physical therapists and wellness experts will help get you back on track.