Person holding their neck in pain

The rise of ‘tech neck’ and how to alleviate it

We’re spending more and more time on our phones, to the point that scientists claim our fingers will evolve to become thinner and pointier!

However, did you know that the amount of time we spend on our phones is also contributing to pain in our neck and shoulders?

‘Tech neck’ or ‘text neck’ is a modern condition – head, neck, and shoulder pain caused by bending our heads downwards to look at our smartphones and tablets. And while it previously just affected adults, children and teenagers are starting to experience the symptoms too.

So, what is tech neck, and what can we do to stop it? Let’s take a look.

How does tech neck happen?

The average adult head weighs about 10lbs, or 4.5kg. When we hold our heads up high, the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck easily support this weight.

However, this changes when we bend our head to look at our phones.

Credit: Health Matters, New York Presbyterian

If we bend our head 15 degrees to look at our phone, the force on our neck changes to 27lbs (12kg), putting more pressure on our neck and shoulders. And the further we bend, the more the pressure increases.

Bending our neck 60 degrees is the equivalent of lifting 60lbs (27kg) of weight. That’s like carrying a full-grown Labrador Retriever around on your head!

Our neck and shoulders aren’t built to support this weight, which leads to the aches, pains, and stiffness associated with tech neck.

Tech neck can also cause other issues too. Bending over for hours on end can reduce the capacity of the lungs, meaning shortness of breath.

How to reduce the pain of tech neck

The easiest way to reduce the pain of tech neck is to stop using our phones, but we appreciate that this isn’t an option for everyone!

Here are some ways you can alleviate tech neck without saying goodbye to your smartphone.

  • Reduce your screen time. There are apps you can download that can block you from websites and apps if you spend too much time on them
  • Change how you hold your phone. Bringing your screen to eye level can reduce pressure on your neck and shoulders
  • Use voice-to-text apps and smart assistants. This means less time hunched texting over your phone
  • Stretch yourself out. Shoulder rolls, chin tucks, and nodding your head up and down can help strengthen your muscles
  • Improve your posture. Keeping your body aligned in a neutral position can alleviate the pressure on your neck and shoulders. A posture corrector can help with this
  • Exercise regularly. This helps strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles and means less time spent on your phone!

While tech neck may sound like a scary condition, the good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your posture and say goodbye to niggling neck and shoulder pain for good.

(Remember that if you experience chronic neck pain, or neck pain that won’t go away, we recommend arranging an appointment to see your GP.)

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