Studies show a connection between smartphone viewing and neck pain in general, as well as increased pain with increased use. It’s not just smartphones creating the problem though. Tablets, laptops, and desktop computers can all contribute to the issue dubbed tech neck.
Viewing any of these devices encourages an instinctive forward tilt to the neck. The most mobile section of the spine, your neck serves as a balance point for your head. When this balance is off, the bones and soft tissue of the neck pick up the slack and may be overloaded, causing musculoskeletal pain.
When neck pain from technology use gets chronic, visit us at 360 Orthopedics for treatment and pain management. Our team includes experienced neck and spine specialists, ready to help you resolve the problems your tech devices create.
The force multiplier of poor posture
The average human head weighs about 11 lbs. With balanced posture, that means your neck supports a force of that weight, directly down the length of the spine. The design of your body allows for a wide range of motion supported by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
When you tip your head forward, you lose the load balance of your head. As you perform a variety of activities during the day, it’s not usually an issue, since those support tissues kick in and counter the cantilever forces created by the forward tilt.
The greater the forward tilt, however, the greater the force these tissues must endure. Tipping your head forward by 45 degrees increases the force on your neck to almost 50 lbs. While your neck supports this over short durations, using a tech device means holding this unbalanced posture for long durations.
Symptoms of tech neck
While each person’s response to unbalanced neck postures includes a unique combination of complaints, common symptoms of tech neck typically include one or more of these:
- Muscle spasms
- Tingling and/or numbness
- Pain in the shoulders or between the shoulder blades
- Referred pain or sensations in your arms
Without treatment, ongoing tech neck issues could lead to deterioration or rupture of spinal discs, compressed nerves, and muscle weakness.
Treatment and prevention of tech neck
As well as managing the pain caused by tech, treatment has two goals: improving posture while using tech devices and increasing the strength and flexibility of the neck.
While you may sit up straight in an attempt to correct your posture, set your chair into a slightly reclined position, just enough that your head would fall backward if you suddenly fell asleep rather than forward. With good lumbar support for your lower back, this position reduces the strain on both neck and back when using a desk-based workstation. In addition, adopt these strategies:
- Raise smartphones and tablets toward eye level: eliminate the forward tilt to your head
- Change positions regularly: your body is made for motion so take frequent breaks from holding a single posture
- Alternate sitting and standing: another way to rebalance body loads, set a timer if needed for reminders
- Stretch: arch your neck, back, and shoulders to counter the effects of tech posture
Follow our physical therapy recommendations or research your own routine and stick to a consistent pattern. Long-term commitment to effective exercises provides the most benefit. Taking time now to reduce the effects of device use prevents treatment later for problems like herniated discs and pinched nerves.
When you can’t get the upper hand on tech neck pain, 360 Orthopedics is here to help. Contact the nearest office by phone or online to schedule a consultation today.