How to Prevent Tech Neck in 5 Easy Steps
Could reading this article hurt your neck? If you are using a computer or handheld device to read this, you may be increasing your risk for tech neck, a painful condition that develops when you look down at your phone, tablet, or laptop. Fortunately, you can treat and prevent tech neck—and laser therapy can help!
Doctors refer to tech neck as an overuse injury, which is a condition that develops when you perform one action too often. Also known by the common name, “tech neck,” or by the medical term, cervical kyphosis, tech neck develops when you hold your neck in a tilted, head-forward position for too long. If you are like the average person, you are looking at your phone for about five hours a day, which provides plenty of opportunities to hold your neck in the wrong position. Tech neck can be painful, and even prevent you from working, communicating with your friends or family, or just enjoying your device.
What Causes Tech Neck?
Your head weighs around 10 or 11 pounds. When you hold your head in a normal position, or at 0 degrees, the weight of your head does not put excessive force on the bones, muscles, and tissues of your neck. For every inch you hold your head forward, the relative weight of your head doubles. Tilting your head forward just 15 degrees can increase the force to 27 pounds, which means your muscles have to work much harder to keep your head up. Tilting your head forward 60 degrees increases the force to 60 pounds.
The more you tilt your head, and the longer you look down, the more force you put on your neck. In time, your muscles can get overly tired from supporting the excess force of your tilted head, and symptoms can develop.
Symptoms of Tech Neck
Symptoms of tech neck include:
- Generalized aching in the neck, upper back, and shoulders
- Rounded shoulders and a forward head posture from weakened, imbalanced muscles
- Headaches from spasming muscles in the neck and shoulders
- Increased pain when looking down and texting
The location, severity, and duration of symptoms can vary between people, and can change from day to day. Symptoms of tech neck can depend on how someone uses their device. Someone who primarily holds their phone with one hand might experience pain on one side of their neck and shoulder, while someone who uses both hands might feel symptoms on both sides of their body. Your specific symptoms can depend on how often you use tech devices, how long you use them each day, and your body posture while using these devices.
Treatment for tech neck involves exercises and stretches to increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Improving your posture when using the devices can ease tech neck pain.
How to Prevent Tech Neck in 5 Easy Steps
1. Maintain good posture
It can be easy to forget good posture while using your phone or computer—until it is too late and you experience pain. Move your phone, computer screen, or other devices up closer to eye level so you do not have to tilt your head forward to see them. You can even install a posture app that helps you form and maintain good posture while you use your phone.
2. Take frequent breaks
Spend some time away from your device. Break up your device use into smaller sessions, and spread your sessions throughout the day; avoid using your device multiple times per hour, though, or cramming all of your device work into the last hour of the day.
Perform neck stretches to keep your muscles loose. For example, bring one ear towards your shoulder by bending your head to one side; hold for a 15 to 30 seconds before bringing your head back up and stretching in the other direction. In another stretch, bend your head straight forward and bring your chin in towards your chest; hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
4. Exercise regularly
A strong, flexible neck and back can handle extra stress. Don’t forget neck and back exercises during your workouts!
5. Undergo laser therapy
Laser therapy uses the power of light energy to treat symptoms of tech neck without the use of risky drugs. To perform this treatment, also known as photobiomodulation, a therapist uses a handheld device that emits a narrow wavelength of light. This light penetrates the skin and is absorbed into body cells; once there, the light stimulates the production of energy within the cells. The cells use this energy to heal from damage and to function at peak performance.
For more information about tech neck and how to prevent it, consult with your doctor, healthcare provider, personal trainer, or laser therapy provider—be sure to use proper posture when making appointment on your device!