Smartphones, laptops, e-readers and other electronic devices have made their mark in our society by becoming mainstream, if not addicting. However, use of these devices has also often left their mark on our skin, chins, necks and backs.
More specifically, a condition referred to as “tech neck” is becoming more and more widespread among those who use these devices. Since users mostly have to bend their heads down at their devices, the neck and chin are starting to be imprinted by the repeated action of looking down. The truth is that wrinkles and lines are forming where the neck and chin are bent, leading to tech neck.
The tech effects don’t stop with wrinkling and lines, though. Overuse or constant use of smartphones and other gadgets is also causing neck and back pain due to hunched-over or other bad posture positions by the body.
John Catlett, a physiotherapist, explains, “Our bodies are not designed to be in the same position for long periods and many people also get into bad postures when using these devices.” As a result, physiotherapists and others are seeing patients with neck, back and shoulder problems as well as pain in the hands and wrists. That’s why it’s important for people to take a break from these devices and also be aware of their posture at all times, Catlett adds.
Dr. Jeff Manning, a chiropractor at the Manning Wellness Clinic in Dallas, Texas, is seeing the tech neck phenomenon, too. He says, “What happens is, all the muscles in the front of the neck become short and tight. The ones in the back become stretched out and also tight. You start to get pressure on all the discs, and ultimately pressure on the nerves in the neck from the postural changes.” Dr. Manning goes so far as to say that hunching over those electronic devices actually changes the spine—and not for the better. He points out, “Over time, the curve straightens out and reverses when you’re constantly looking down. That can cause a lot of pain.”
Even with tech neck, however, most people won’t or can’t give up their smartphones, laptops and other gadgets, so here are some ways to alleviate or avoid tech neck:
- Take breaks often from the device(s), including getting away from the device entirely and walking around to stretch your neck, shoulders, back and other muscles affected.
- Move your device or devices to eye level so that you’re not leaning over all the time to use them or aren’t hunched over, either. A tablet holder or something similar works well.
- Do a few counter-tech neck exercises, such as tilting your head to one side with your ear to your shoulder, and then to the other side and back facing straight. Then turn to look all the way to the right and then turn to look all the way to the left—slowly each time. Repeat these a few times. Another exercise is to imagine that your back is to a bookshelf and your job is to push up and back into place on that bookshelf two imaginary books—with the back of your head. The upward and backward movement can help to offset tech neck and give some relief to muscles used and abused during typical technology use.
You don’t have to fall victim to tech neck and its fallout.