It’s a fact that computers are an essential part of modern life. It’s estimated that the average American spends 5.9 hours a day on digital media. This number has continually increased every year for the past decade. Spending this much time looking at screens can take a toll on your brain and your body, including your hands, eyes, and especially your neck.
“Tech neck” is a term that was developed to explain the strain that looking at screens puts on your neck. This effect can cause stiffness, tension, and even pain in your neck. It’s essential to understand what tech neck is, how to reduce the chances of developing it, and exercises that can relieve it.
At the Orthopaedic Institute For Spinal Disorders in Houston, Texas, Dr. Jose E. Rodriguez-Cordova is a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon who provides a variety of services aimed at allowing you to move without pain. Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova has many years of experience diagnosing and treating neck pain, including problems caused by tech neck.
What is tech neck?
Tech neck is a term that was developed for various related pains you may develop in your neck from staring at screens. This might be caused by the “head down, shoulders hunched” posture that is common when using a handheld device like a cell phone. It can also be the result of holding your head at an odd or uncomfortable angle when sitting in front of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.
You may not think about it much, but your head weighs between 8 and 12 pounds. It’s a very heavy object for the ligaments and muscles of your neck to hold up. Many people are surprised to learn that for every inch your head is tilted down, the weight on your neck is actually doubled. It’s estimated that about 7 of 10 people will have occasional neck pain.
What exercises relieve tech neck?
You may be able to avoid severe tech neck by reducing your screen time, taking frequent breaks, or watching your posture more carefully. Try to watch the angle at which you hold your head, and avoid tilting it as much as you can. If you feel pain, this is a sign your body is telling you that something is wrong, and you should pay attention.
There are some exercises that can help relieve tech neck as well. Do about ten repeats of each of these exercises at least once a day for maximum relief.
Slowly tilt your head slightly forward, tucking your chin into your neck. Then slowly bring your head back up until it is between your shoulders. Try to stay relaxed in your shoulders and back while completing this exercise.
To complete the shoulder rolls, lift your shoulders towards your ears and then roll them forward while tipping your head slightly towards your chest. Then do the opposite, lift your shoulders towards your ears and roll them back while tilting your head slightly backward.
You can complete this exercise while you are sitting down or standing up. With your head up and facing forward and your shoulders relaxed, put both arms straight above your head, reaching up until you feel a stretch in your upper back. Return your shoulders to your sides before repeating the exercise.
Neck side stretch
To complete this stretch, put your left arm straight down along your side. Bring your right arm, elbow bent, above your head, and curve it over until your hand is resting near your left ear. Using gentle pressure, pull your head slightly to the right until you feel a stretch in your neck, and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on that side, and then switch sides.
With your shoulders relaxed while standing or sitting, gently and slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a few seconds, then relax and repeat the exercise, being sure not to lift your shoulders.
Getting into the habit of completing these exercises will help your neck cope with the task of supporting your head while you are holding it at odd angles and avoid the dreaded “tech neck.” Remember that taking breaks and reducing your screen time can help as well.