You see it every day. In fact, if you look around the mall, public transit, even the office, you can probably spot it right now. People with shoulders hunched forward, neck straining at an awkward angle, squinting at their screen, thumbs moving rapidly as they type away.
It is a new posture, gaining popularity in recent years with the rise in Americans’ attachment to our cell phones. Whether you are the type who is constantly checking social media, that employee who cannot seem to stop replying to work emails (even on vacation), or the sports enthusiast who needs to check the score of the game every other minute, we are all guilty of moving into this position, often without even realizing we are doing so.
The more you strain your neck forward to check your screen, the more susceptible you become to chronic neck pain. As you respond to that Facebook invitation for a friend’s party next week, or type out an email to a colleague, you are positioning your neck at an unnatural angle. When it is positioned this way for a lengthy amount of time, it causes muscle strain and pain.
On top of this, phones require you to hunch your shoulders over as you scan the screen, and this causes the neck to move into an odd angle resulting in strain to the entire upper body.
What You Can Do
Tech neck is not a comfortable or attractive look on anyone. While we understand that cell phones and other electronic devices are a necessary part of day-to-day life for most people in today’s society, there are some tips that can help alleviate this strain and prevent long-term issues:
- Do not exceed five minutes when looking down at screen and hunching shoulders over
- Train yourself to bring your cell phone to eye level to alleviate pain
- Visit the chiropractor often to align your neck and spine and relieve tension in the neck and shoulders
On top of these tips, the following stretches and exercises can help relieve pain and prevent more serious health issues resulting from tech neck.
Side Bending Neck Stretch
- Tilt your head to the right, so that your ear is touching your shoulder. If this is difficult, use your hands to help tilt your head over.
- Hold for 20 – 30 seconds.
- Tilt your head over to the other shoulder. Hold another 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
Head Rotation Stretch
- Rotate your chin over to your right shoulder.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Bring your head back to the center, looking straight on.
- Rotate chin to your left shoulder. Hold again for 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times.
Chin Tuck Stretch
- Start out looking straight, then move your chin towards your chest.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then bring back up to first position.
- Repeat 10 times.
As a final piece of advice, try putting your cell phone out of sight from time to time. If you leave for lunch, keep it in your desk. When you get home from work, turn it off or keep it in your work bag with the sound off. There is no need to constantly be attached to your device – and your neck will thank you for this later.