The Dangers of Tech Neck

Almost everyone — roughly 95% of Americans — has a cellphone or some other mobile device. While advances in mobile technology help keep people connected, it’s not without downsides. A major concern of tech is its affect the body.

Spending extended periods in front of cellphones and laptops throws off the natural alignment of your neck and spine, termed “tech neck.” Our experts discuss how tech neck takes a toll on posture and offer tips on what you can do to prevent it.

Just what is tech neck?

Staring down at your smartphone for several hours a day texting, browsing the web, interacting on social media, and responding to emails causes neck strain. Tilting your head down and forward to look at your favorite tech device places your neck in an unnatural position that strains the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Have you ever noticed a sore neck or sore shoulders at the end of a long day? Chances are tech neck is to blame.

Importance of good posture

Sitting or standing up straight centers your weight over your feet. This keeps your spine neutral. When you have good posture, the structure of your spine is balanced and supports your body equally. When you sit and stand with your body properly aligned, you breathe efficiently and your organs function as intended.

Tech affects more than your neck

Constant tech use affects more than your neck. It takes a toll on your spine. When your head tilts forward, it adds to the workload of muscles in your spine — by some estimates, tilting your head forward can add up to 60 extra pounds.

The downward angle of your head when constantly using a smartphone forces your neck to carry the extra weight. The added pressure and strain on the surrounding muscles and joints can cause a slew of problems, from compressing discs in the cervical spine to increasing the wear and tear on the spine and the structures that support it.

Side effects and serious consequences of tech neck

Aside from a crampy, sore neck, tech neck can cause a range of side effects including:

Over time, tech neck can lead to more serious issues, such as herniated discs. The bones of your spine are cushioned by small discs with a tough outer layer and a jelly-like center. A herniated disc occurs when the soft center pushes out, creating a bulge. This displacement can compress nerves and cause pain. In severe cases, herniated discs may require surgery.   

How can you reduce tech neck?

Practicing good posture is the best way to reduce tech neck. Instead of tilting your head down, bring your phone up to your line of vision so you can keep your spine in a neutral position. How you hold your body while using tech devices is completely under your control. It may take some practice, but the more you do, the more your posture will improve.

Reducing time spent on mobile devices also has benefits. Get up for a quick walk, or spend a few minutes engaging in other tasks to break things up so you aren’t spending uninterrupted hours on your tech device.

How do you know when you’re practicing good posture?

The overall goal is to keep your spine neutral. Doing so creates a small hollow at the base of your neck, roundness at the middle of your back, and a small hollow in your lower back. Your posture is poor if your shoulders are rounded forward. You know you’re practicing good posture when your shoulders are back and your head is straight. 

Remain aware of your head position while sitting. Keeping your screen at eye level relieves some of the strain on your neck and spine.

Get help for pain

If tech neck is taking a toll, you have options for pain relief. At Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain, our team can evaluate and diagnose your pain and get to the root cause. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or lifestyle changes. Other treatments are available when conservative approaches aren’t enough.

To learn more about diagnosis and treatment for pain, contact one of our six convenient locations throughout South and North Carolina to schedule an appointment.

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