The Dangers of Tech Neck

Americans average use digital media nearly six hours per day, including more than three hours on mobile devices. The newest by-product of our ever-expanding world of technology, “tech neck,” affects most of us. When we work on our laptop or desktop computers or look down at our phones, our neck muscles contract in order to support our heads. This eventually results in neck and shoulder pain, colloquially known as “tech neck.”

Jose E. Rodriguez-Cordova, MD, FACS and our team at Orthopaedic Institute for Spinal Disorders in Houston can help relieve your neck pain resulting simply from poor posture while using your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, or if it’s compounded by an underlying health issue such as arthritis.

Keep an eye on your posture

An adult human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. When tilted a mere 15 degrees downward to look at your phone, this weight feels more like 27 pounds. Held at a 60-degree angle, your head seems as heavy as 60 pounds. That puts a definite strain on your hard-working neck muscles. The sharp tilt also causes your spine to move out of proper alignment, which can eventually trigger disc problems and neck pain on its own.

Chatting on the phone with a device stuck between your ear and shoulder or lying on your bed with your head propped up while using a laptop can cause similar problems.

Ergonomically correct posture

While working at a desktop computer or laptop, make sure the top of your screen remains at eye level. Plant both feet on the floor (or use a footrest) with elbows at a 90-degree angle and wrists parallel to your desk. Holding your head in this position will prevent you from looking down with your neck flexed forward. Switching to a chair with a headrest can also help. Make sure to sit all the way back for support.

If you use a laptop, sit in a recliner or chair that can lean back so your eyes remain closer to the top of your screen, with your back and arms supported. When working away from home at your local coffee shop or similar site, prop your laptop on books or a backpack to keep it at the correct height. Minor modifications can make all the difference.

Simple ways to combat tech neck

  • Employ better posture while using a computer or looking down at your mobile screen.
  • Limit time spent in a texting position, with eyes focused down on the screen, to put less stress on your head and neck.
  • Take 30-second mini breaks every 15 minutes or so to stretch your neck and back and rest your eyes.
  • Make sure your computer’s monitor sits directly in front of you and not off to the side. If you’re reading materials while typing, keep those at eye level, too, clipped to your monitor or to a stand.
  • Walk around a bit every hour when working on the computer or, better yet, do some of your work at a standing desk.
  • Stay hydrated. Our bodies are nearly 80% water, so the more fluid we take in, the more lubricated and pain-free our nerves and muscles remain.

Desktop yoga

Another way to ward off pain and keep tech neck at bay while sitting at your desk is to stretch periodically. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Open up your arms as wide as they can go
  2. Stretch your neck back
  3. Look up as far as you can

When to get help

If you’ve tried some of these suggestions and your neck pain continues for more than a week, schedule a visit with Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova. He reviews your medical history and tech-use habits to devise a treatment plan, which may include behavior modification, pain medication, or targeted exercises. Surgery remains a last resort in managing neck pain. When and if that time comes, he uses advanced, minimally invasive techniques.

To book a consultation with Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova and our team, simply give us a call at 281-994-9665 or schedule your appointment online at Orthopaedic Institute for Spinal Disorders.

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