Tips to Avoid “Tech Neck”
By Madison Jebbia
Considering advancements in technology and a transfer to virtual communication and learning, it is inevitable that people will be spending more time looking at technological devices. As a result of the constant attention to screens and lack of movement, many people are suffering from “tech neck”. Tech neck is the term that encapsulates the aching pains and lack of mobility produced throughout the body from holding the neck in a flexed position for prolonged periods.
Posture that deviates from the natural curvatures of the spine cause increased pressure on the vertebrae.
We generally do not realize how much weight our neck supports until we experience tech neck. Although this begins in the cervical region of the body, pain and complications can radiate to the shoulders, arms, and down the back as tingling and numbness. Above the neck, people may experience severe headaches and difficulty focusing.
Prevent the Problem
One of the most obvious, yet under-utilized, ways to prevent tech neck is to limit screen time. This can be challenging considering the dependence people have on devices for communication, scheduling, and accessing information. However, it will be beneficial if you swap some screen time for other activities that will benefit your health.
Find fun activities that require you to engage with the outside world and eliminate the temptation of using a device. Maybe even leave your device at home. Exercising regularly is a key component to combating tech neck during free time. It is crucial for improving fitness and properly caring for your body.
When you feel the urge to scroll through your phone to pass some time, do a breathing exercise or practice mindfulness instead. Become more in tune with your body than your phone.
Tips to Adjust Your Life and Neck
When you can’t seem to get away from your device, create good habits that will reduce the stress you are putting on your body. Use the device to guide you to being more attentive. Try apps on your phone that are designed to help improve posture and mobility. Set reminders to get up and move every 15-30 minutes for a break from time spent researching or scrolling. Increased movement will go a long way toward preventing a stiff neck and spine.
When you find yourself spending too much time looking down, change the placement of your screen. While sitting at your desk, elevate your laptop to a position that is eye level when seated in your chair. This will align your spine to prevent poor posture and keep your head from dropping forward to that flexed position.
If your job requires long hours at a desk, it may be time to upgrade your space for a future with less neck pain. Find a desk that has a large range of height to adjust to eye level while standing or even kneeling. Incorporating various positions to be at your desk can increase comfort and movement into your workspace.
Easy at Work Exercises for Tech Neck
· Chin Tucks: Align your spine and pull your chin back into a ‘double chin’ position and hold for 5-10 seconds; release and repeat a few times. Counteracts the strain of looking down.
· Hand to Forehead Stretch: Place your hand against your forehead and resist the force of head pushing against your hand. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release. Increases the strength of neck muscles.
· Ear to Shoulder Stretch: Tilt your head to one side, bringing the ear toward the shoulder (rather than the shoulder to the ear). If comfortable, place the hand on the opposite side of the held using the added weight to gently increase the stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds, release, and repeat to the opposite side. Releases tension and increases blood flow.
· Backward Shoulder Rolls: Slowly roll your shoulder backwards through a full range of motion for 5-10 reps. Relaxes your neck and back muscles and corrects posture.
· Shoulder Blade Retraction: Adjust your posture throughout the day by positioning your arms in your best football touchdown signal, draw the shoulder blades down and together, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Helps strengthen the upper back while stretching the chest and front of shoulders.
Repeat these exercises throughout the day to prevent and reduce tech neck pains!
Take it to the Pool
All these exercises can be enhanced by transferring them into the pool. The unique properties of water increase blood flow, reduce the downward pull of gravity on submerged joints allowing for greater mobility, and brings greater awareness to each movement. Additionally, you can practice relaxing aquatic techniques, such as Ai Chi, that emphasize proper posture and body mechanics to stabilize the body while releasing tension.
Madison Jebbia is a student at West Virginia University majoring in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in Aquatic Therapy. She utilizes her aquatic certifications to instruct deep water running classes for rehab and fitness purposes and works as an intern for the AEA.