Desktop PCs, laptops and mobile devices have become commonplace in society today, and whether they’re being used for work or for leisure, you’re bound to use at least one of these gadgets at some point during the day. While these electronic devices are an essential feature of the modern world and bring with them a host of benefits, they also cause unique problems of their own too, and one of those is the phenomenon known as Tech Neck.
What You Need to Know About the Tech Neck Epidemic
What Is Tech Neck?
If you’ve ever experienced an ache or a pain in your back or neck while you’ve been working on a computer or mobile device it’s highly likely that the discomfort you have experienced is the phenomenon known as “Tech Neck”.
Tech Neck is a pain which builds gradually over time and may possibly go away completely in a few days, or alternatively, may return time and again for years. The stiffness and soreness in the neck may even travel to the middle of the back and the shoulder blades, and could even spread to the arms.
The pain can vary between a dull ache and a sharp pain that occurs during movements, and the sufferer may even experience headaches as part of this condition. Sometimes, the sufferer experiences the pain while they are using their electronic device, but other times, it may only come on later in the day. Eventually, the pain will start to have an impact on everyday activities.
Almost everyone experiences some type of back or neck pain at some point, and, contrary to popular belief most of these conditions are not caused as a result of lifting something heavy or from a trip or fall. In fact, around 70% of these conditions start with everyday repetitive activities such as spending time using electronic devices.
What Is The Cause Of Tech Neck?
Tech Neck is caused by a combination of repetitive strain and poor posture, either occurring over a short time frame or over a longer period.
When viewed from the side, the spine has 3 natural curves – a curve towards the throat in the neck, another curving backwards in the middle of the back and a third which curves forwards to the abdomen in the lower back. If the back and neck is not maintained in the right position in those natural curves, eventually pain will be the result.
The definition of repetitive strain is a subtle, small amount of overuse, force or strain over an extended period of time.
Why Does Poor Posture Cause Pain?
When someone its in a slouched, poor posture, their lower back will not be forming its natural curve. Their neck will also have a more increased curve forwards while the middle of the back will have a larger curve backwards. This posture will abnormally stretch the spinal discs, the ligaments and the muscles and eventually pain will develop. Sometimes, it will take several months, but for some people the pain can occur in as short a time as a few minutes.
The pain may also spread to the legs and arms, and can also cause headaches. Sometimes, the sufferer finds relief from changing position, but this is only a temporary solution since if the poor posture is allowed to carry on unchecked, eventually the pain will continue regardless of the position adopted by the sufferer. This is because the ligaments and muscles eventually shorten and tighten, causing a loss of flexibility in the back and neck.
Pain While Using The Desktop Computer
Many people who spend the majority of their day working at a desktop PC adopt poor posture that results in Tech Neck. The spine adopts abnormal curves with the middle and lower back in a C shaped curve due to slouching. While the curve in the middle of the back is exaggerated, the chin and head jut forward causing excessive curve in the neck. This means that the muscles of the upper back and neck are being strained and the result will eventually be aching and pain. When using a desktop PC, the head should remain balanced on the shoulders with the curves of the spine taking a natural and balanced position. The face and head should look straight ahead without any downward angle while the elbows should lie at the sides of the body. Adopting this posture when working at a computer will minimize neck and back pain.
Pain When Using A Cell Phone
When using a smartphone to text, browse the internet or send emails for an extended period many people hold their device in a low position with their elbows held away from their sides. Their head will therefore have a downward tilt adding too much force on the neck muscles. Meanwhile, the abnormal spinal curves and slouched posture add to the problems and the abnormal load on the back and neck will almost certainly result in a painful case of Tech Neck. When using a smartphone, users should hold their device in a higher position, keeping their elbows close to their sides to reduce the downward angle of their head. By adopting an upright posture, the neck and back will be brought into a more natural position and will engage the core, trunk and back muscles to stay in the correct posture. Smartphone users are advised to either use a chair with a well-shaped back piece or to stand while using their device to promote a more natural posture.
Back And Neck Problems When Using A Laptop
Many people slouch on the couch when using their laptop and that leads to a slumped posture that ends in Tech Neck. While the couch may appear to be a comfortable place to sit and work or browse the internet, they lack the support necessary to maintain a normal sitting position and are not ideal for use when operating a laptop. Instead, it makes sense to sit in a firm and upright chair when using a laptop which makes it easier to keep the head balanced on the shoulders and to align the curves of the spine in their proper positions. Users should angle the screen upwards to maintain the optimal viewing angle and, wherever possible, putting the laptop on a desk and using an external keyboard or mouse is the best idea for promoting good posture.
How Can Tech Neck Be Treated?
There are several things that can be done to treat Tech Neck. One way to relieve the pain at home is to perform a neck retraction exercise intermittently during the day. Sufferers should aim to perform this exercise at least five times every couple of hours as it is an effective way of elongating and stretching the neck to remove tightness and strain.
The best treatment for Tech Neck is a course of physiotherapy focusing on the root cause of the condition. By working on body mechanics, posture and the muscles, Tech Neck can eventually be improved. As part of a physiotherapy treatment, the sufferer will learn more about their neck and will discover how to reduce the stress and strain on its muscles as well as learning exercises to reduce the strain, to stretch and strengthen tight muscles and to promote speedier healing.
A physiotherapist can also help to ease the pain and discomfort with a hands-on treatment to apply pressure on the spine to promote healing and movement, and to reduce pain. By learning effective self-treatments which they can use themselves at home or work, patients can also prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future so that they can continue to work and to enjoy their electronic devices free of pain and discomfort.
By addressing the problem sooner rather than later, sufferers of the peculiarly modern condition stand the best chance of minimizing their suffering and preventing any long-term problems that could seriously impact on their enjoyment of everyday activities.