Do you experience pain in your neck and shoulders after a prolonged period using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer? If so, you may be suffering from tech neck. This is a colloquial term given to the discomfort that arises from spending prolonged periods of time slumped over an electronic device.
Although tech neck is not a scientific diagnosis, the underlying repetitive strain injury is nevertheless very real, with measurable causes and effects. Over time, the awkward position can lead to changes in your posture.
Causes of Tech Neck
Your neck is very flexible, and it is a good thing that it is, or you would have to move your entire upper body when you wanted to look up, down, or to the side. However, because the neck is so flexible, it is also prone to injury.
When your head is in a neutral position, centered over your neck and shoulders, you probably do not notice its weight. However, when you move your head forward to look at your device, gravity works on it so that it seems to become heavier. The muscles in your neck are not designed to hold your head in this position for a prolonged period of time. It puts an enormous strain on them, which you often experience as pain or discomfort in your neck once the pressure is relieved.
It is not only your neck that is affected, however. Holding the position also causes you to hunch your shoulders forward unnaturally, which can put strain on those muscles as well. Over time, this hunched-forward position may become habitual, which can cause breathing problems and other long-term complaints.
Prevention of Tech Neck
The simplest solution may also be the most difficult: decreased or discontinued use of electronic devices. Many people have come to rely heavily on their devices to get through their day. Discontinuing use, or even cutting down on it, may be impractical.
To further complicate the matter, there is really no ideal position in which to use smart phones and other devices. Either you bend your head forward — which puts strain on your neck — or you lift your arms up to hold the device, which can put pressure on the muscles of your upper extremity. Some people put their elbows on the table to support their arms while bringing the device up to the head, but this can cause ulnar neuropathy from pressure on the ulnar nerve.
Perhaps the only possible solution is to schedule rest breaks while using electronic devices. For every 15 to 20 minutes of use, take a three-minute break. If you are already experiencing chronic problems related to tech neck, contact a chiropractor today. A chiropractor, like a chiropractor from AmeriWell Clinics, can assess your pain and posture and may be able to relieve some of your problems.