STOP. Don’t move a muscle.
What are the chances that this is being read on a cell phone? Or by someone who’s on hour 10 of being hunched over their computer. As a chiropractor for neck pain, I know that our community has not been spared from the phenomenon known as “Tech Neck”. Or “Text Neck”. Tomato/tomato.
Tech neck is a forward head posture, with rounded shoulders, and a slumped back. It’s the exact position our bodies take when we’re scrolling through our phones, swiping left and right, and trying to get to the next level of Candy Crush. Anyone else stuck on level 2498?
Tech neck compresses and tightens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the front of the neck at the same time as it lengthens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back of the neck. This causes structural changes to the cervical spine, which, as our avid followers know, causes interference in the nerve pathways connecting the brain and the body. And when those two can’t talk, it’s a nightmare. It’s literally one of the worst things we can do to our necks.
It also puts a crazy amount of pressure on the muscles in the back of the neck, shoulders, and upper back, leading to a whole host of “I’m this close to snapping today!” aches and pains.
The human head weighs 10 – 12 pounds. Every inch that it creeps forward that weight doubles. DOUBLES! That’s a lot to ask of our necks. 🤓New research also suggests that kids are developing hornlike bone spurs at the base of their skull, the same way a callus builds up from lifting weights. HORNS! ON HUMANS! Need I say more?
I’m no fool, I know that ditching our devices is not really an option. What we need is to change our habits and make sure that we’re stretching and strengthening our muscles properly so our body can keep up with our online presence. Here are 5 tips to avoid tech neck altogether.
1. Hold The Phone Screen Higher
Well if it’s so obvious, then do it. And get that glass out of my face.
Bringing the screen to eye level will prevent slouching and slumping in the neck and back. A good measure of good posture is ears in line with shoulders.
“But my arms are gonna get tired!”
Think about how tired your neck is from carrying around your 50 lbs head. Switch arms, buy a device that can elevate the phone, rest elbows on a table top, or hook one arm under the other to prop up the phone. The effort it takes to hold a phone at eye level will pay off in proper spinal structure that won’t cause nerve dysfunction or pain.
2. Take A Break
We work hard. Don’t spend 6 or 8 hours at a desk all day and never get up to stretch or walk around. Our bosses don’t deserve that. I love my boss, but still. 😉 Develop a habit of taking a 5 minute break every 45 minutes. Set an alarm, write on a sticky note, have a coworker come over and ask an annoying question as a reminder that it’s time for a break.
Use these breaks to move around, have a posture check in, and keep those neck muscles loose. Do a few quick stretches like: tucking your chin down, then raising it up slowly. Then gently turn your head over one shoulder and then the other. This is a great stretch for when your boss is asking you to stay late.
*Bonus Tip: Browse the App Store for apps that offer real-time feedback about posture.*
People hate when exercise is part of a list like this, but does the fact that it occupies a spot on almost every wellness list say anything?
A strong, flexible body is able to handle more stress and the simple act of moving around hydrates our joints and spinal discs. Strengthening muscle imbalances through weight training will reinforce good posture and stability throughout the entire spine. It also helps with body awareness, which can help us more easily identify less than perfect posture.
It doesn’t have to be crazy, simple body weight exercises that can be done in the comfort of our home are great! No gym membership or dumbbells required.
4. Stretch That Neck
Gently stretch the neck through its full range of motion. These are great stretches to do first thing after a restful night sleep, but be careful they’re super complicated, see if you can keep up.
- Extension – Keeping the shoulders and back stationary, look up. Complicated, I know. When the head is as far back as it can go, hold it for 5 seconds and return to neutral.
- Flexion – Lower the chin towards the chest, moving only the head. Once the head has flexed as far forward as is comfortable, hold it there for 5 seconds and then return to a neutral position. This stretch should be felt through the back of the neck.
- Lateral Flexion – Keeping the shoulders still, bend the head to one side bringing the ear as close to the shoulder as possible. Hold it for, you guessed it, 5 seconds. Then do the same movement in the opposite direction.
- Rotation – Turn the head to the left as far as it can go, keeping the back and shoulders still. Hold for 5 seconds and then return to neutral before doing the same stretch on the right side.
These are so simple. They can be done sitting down. But they’re so helpful in creating balance and easing muscle tension throughout the neck and upper back. Also, if 5 seconds feels too short, make it longer. The autonomy!
5. Use Pain as a Warning
Pain is our body’s alarm system, letting us know that we are not adapting properly to some sort of trigger. Chronic neck pain, headaches and migraines, numbness and tingling into the arms and hands, these are flares that the body is sending up hoping someone will come to the rescue.
Sometimes holding the phone higher or avoiding a coworker is not enough to alleviate tech neck pain and the underlying structural issues need to be addressed. We’re able to adjust and correct structural issues to relieve the pain and dysfunction caused by nerve interference. We have a variety of techniques we use to address the issues of each specific patient, wherever they’re at.
💆♀️Massage therapy to loosen tight neck and back muscles and prepare the body for adjustments.
🏋️♀️Custom therapeutic exercise plans to address muscle weakness and imbalance due to poor posture habits.
🎆We even use a freaking laser to decrease pain, reduce inflammation, and speed up the healing process. We’re gonna take care of you. Give us a call or set up a time to speak with one of our doctors here. For a lot of people pain has become a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be. Living with pain isn’t living at all.