Studies suggest that people spend around on average a whopping four hours a day looking at their phones. If you’re hunching over your phone or the computer monitor, then you are a victim of poor posture labelled as ‘Tech Neck’. But what is this phenomenon and how can you avoid it?
We asked Capital Physio physiotherapist Nick Chatziviltsos for his expert advice on identifying, preventing and tackling Tech Neck. Read on (and sit up straight!) for his thoughts.
What causes ‘Tech Neck’?
People all over the world spend much of their day looking down at phones, tablets and computer screens. Though most of us are guilty of the poor posture our tech addition encourages, the results can be seriously damaging and cause conditions including ‘Tech Neck’.
To help visualise the cause of this condition, consider that when your head is in a neutral position (with correct posture) there is a natural stress of up to 12lbs in your spine, which of course is simply the weight of your head. However, when looking downwards at your phone or tablet at a 60-degree angle, this weight increases to 60lbs of pressure in your spine, the equivalent of a medium sized dog or an eight-year-old child!
It’s no wonder then that this increased strain causes stress injuries such as neck pain, muscle stiffness and mobility restrictions aka ‘Tech Neck’.
How can I tell if I have Tech Neck?
If you often tilt your head downwards and hunch your back for prolonged periods of times and regularly experience some of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from ‘Tech Neck’:
- Upper back and neck stiffness which could range from nagging pain to severe spasms
- Headaches due to muscle tightness
- Shoulder pain or tightness
- Numbness, pins and needles down your hand
- General bad posture and difficulty maintaining proper posture
How do I tackle ‘Tech Neck’?
Remember that poor posture is the root cause of the pain caused by ‘Tech Neck’. Try to become hyper aware of your posture – self-awareness is key! You could ask friends, family and workmates to remind you to fix your posture should they spot you exhibiting bad habits. If you think ‘Tech Neck’ is, or could become, a condition that affects you, then here are some techniques to tackle it in various settings.
1. At your desk
Once seated, move your pelvis right back until it is at the back of the chair. A small pillow behind your lower back can maintain its natural curve and help support your spine. If available, request a work station assessment to rearrange your phone, desk, chair and computer monitor with a view to enabling good posture, reducing the pressure on your spine, preventing pain and lessening fatigue. A suitable sitting position should see your desk at elbow level and your shoulders relaxed.
2. On the move
When on your feet, instead of looking down at your phone, bring it up to eye level and maintain a neutral neck position to relieve the stress in your muscles. An easy way to avoid arm ache while doing this is to cross the opposite hand over to support the elbow of the arm holding your phone.
3. Sofa surfing
All of us love to surf from the comfort of a couch, but it’s easy to get into the bad habit of popping your phone on the arm of a sofa and view the screen from above, looking down. Break the habit today for the sake of your body by instead bringing your phone to eye level, using a pillow to provide extra support to your arms and elbows.
4. During tech free time
Your body may get tired when you’re retraining it with the aim of making good posture second nature to you. To help it recover and recharge, remember to turn off the tech regularly and go for a walk or do some stretching. People with ‘Tech Neck’ tend to experience tightness in particular muscle groups, such as pectorals. As little as one minute of stretching in problem areas can provide significant relief. If pain has remained for over a week, consider visiting a physiotherapist for a personalised treatment plan.
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