Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized how we live on a daily basis. With technology, we can do so much right at our fingertips, even work out. The amount of time spent looking down at a screen has increased significantly over the past 10 years. The posture made when looking down at a phone or tablet, or some mobile device usually consists of rounded shoulders and a flexed forward head – this is called “Tech Neck.”
Maintaining this head-forward posture for an extended period of time can lead to muscle strain, disc injury, nerve impingement and arthritic changes of the neck, thus increasing the potential for developing ongoing neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and pain radiating down the arms.
According to TRUE Training Education Manager, Randy Leopando, “Simply stated, the body’s structures will adapt to the space it’s given – if your shoulders are rounded, the chest muscles will shorten and upper back muscles will lengthen. Therefore, the ligaments and muscles in the rounded neck will lengthen and lose its ability to support it. More so, the neck and upper spine may eventually go through degenerative structural changes and permanently remain in this tech neck posture.”
To avoid developing degenerative neck changes due to poor posture, here are 5 simple steps you can start today:
Limit the amount of time and frequency that you use your device. If you have to use it for an extended period of time, take breaks. Develop a habit of taking a three-minute break for every 15 to 20 minutes you use your device. Change your posture and move around, implementing stretches you can do at your desk.
A tablet holder is a good investment in helping prevent tech neck. A tablet holder, which comes in many styles, will elevate your device to significantly reduce the amount of neck flexion and forward positioning. Most tablet holders are adjustable, so try to keep the device as close to eye-level as possible.
If you travel in your car a lot (for work or pleasure) or sit in an office, try make to keep the back of your head in contact with a headrest while using your tablet, phone or laptop. Keeping the back of your head flush against the headrest ensures that you’re not looking down with your neck flexed forward.
Use the headrest on the chair or in the car and do some corrective exercises like head-neck retractions: press the back of your head on the headrest and draw your chin down 1-2 inches. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds for 5 sets.
For an even more effective way to combat tech neck, head to the gym to use the TRUE Stretch and perform stretches A3, B2, C2 on the placard. If you are unable to go to the gym, feel free to try these stretches at home.
If you’re experiencing any kind of pain in your neck, between the shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in the arms or frequent headaches, there may be a more serious issue going on. Stop what you are doing immediately and pay a visit to your physician to ensure that you are okay.
Technology has made our lives easier with a simple tap on a touch-screen. However, this convenience has put our neck health in jeopardy. This doesn’t mean you have to throw away your smart device and go back to the simple life. Increasing your awareness of how much time is spent looking down at your device is key. The time spent in this position will determine how much time you will need to take to do stretches, exercises, and “tech breaks” to help deter against strain on your muscles and joints. The neck and spine are areas of the body that are extremely important. If you ever feel uncomfortable or have doubts about how to fix certain pain or injuries, always be sure to consult your doctor first.