Tech neck is the term used to describe the damage sustained by looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or another electronic device too frequently or for too long. This is becoming a growing concern in society today.
The most common symptoms of text neck or tech neck are:
- Neck pain
- Upper back pain
- Muscle spasm
- Shoulder pain and/or tightness
- Increased curvature of the spine
- Decreased lung capacity
- Early onset arthritis
The bowling ball analogy
The average head weighs between 4.5-5kg, that’s about 8% of our overall body mass. This may seem like a lot of weight to carry but our spine is designed to support the weight of our head in a neutral position. Essentially, our neck has the task of holding a bowling ball up for the best part of the day.
It is difficult for us to think of our head as a bowling ball but imagine holding a bowling ball in your hands close to your body. As you move it further away from your body it becomes heavier, your arms start to fatigue and your body starts to shift to compensate for the added strain on your arms.
It is said that for every 2.5cm your head moves forward, it increases the load on your spine by an additional 4.5kg! When we are looking down at the phone, tablet or even laptop, that ads extra pressure to our spine and neck. While our body has the ability to adapt to these changes, unfortunately when we spend most of our day hunched up over technology our spine adapts to that too and it is not designed to withstand this pressure over an extended period.
The magnitude of this could become responsible for decades of chronic neck pain
Studies have estimated that the average person looks at a smartphone 221 times a day for a total of about three hours and 15 minutes – about once every four minutes for 16 hours straight. As Chiropractor’s this is a worrying statistic because in one year the average person will spend almost 1,200 hours – 50 days – staring down at a screen. The average user reaches for their phone before they’ve even gotten out of bed, checking the weather, picking up emails and seeing if we missed anything on our social channels before we even think about breakfast. We are on them late too; with the average time we last check our phones in a day being 11:21pm. A preliminary study in the 2011 edition of Applied Ergonomics shows a relationship between mobile device use and musculoskeletal neck pain.
This is becoming more common, but it is not normal!
There is a special concern about the potential health implications for the younger generation whose spines are still developing. Children as young as 2 years old are sitting slumped over phones and tablets watching videos or playing games daily. While the videos and games may be educational, the affects this may have on their bodies often doesn’t become apparent until later in life. When we talk to our friends and colleagues in Chiropractic offices around the world, they are reporting more and more young children coming to see them with neck pain, back pain and headaches.
How can we prevent this?
Here are our top tips on how to reduce your susceptibility to tech neck:
- Take A Break – Holding your phone or tablet for extended periods of time can strain the muscles in the shoulders, arms and fingers. Put down the device and let your arms rest.
- Set Time Limits – Try not to remain in the same position for longer than 30 minutes.
- Aim Higher – Reduce neck strain by bringing your phone or tablet closer to eye level. When reading or watching lectures/videos on a tablet, let your arms rest by propping the device up against something.
- Stretch It Out – Take a short walk in between shifting your position. Even if it’s to grab coffee or go to the toilet, getting your body moving is key.
- Power On! – Having your spine and nervous system checked by a vitalistic Chiropractor can help to prevent injuries, reduce pain and increase overall health and wellbeing.
** Pain is a warning sign! Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right. Don’t ignore the early warning signs. Listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t make it scream before you stop and listen.