Today we all have a phone, and most of us now have a smartphone that does way more than we ever could have hoped…(or feared?!) Chiropractors always want to encourage their patients to maintain good posture and avoid that “head down” position, but today – is that even possible?
Time for some Chiropractic realism…
Chiropractors, above all else, are pragmatists. We’d love to see everyone walking around with perfect posture, with an appropriately loaded, well-balanced rucksack before heading home for some stretching and strengthening exercises. Yeah – perhaps not that realistic! In a way, recognising the gap between the ideal and the possible – and then working to fill that void is really what chiropractors do. After all, if everyone had perfect posture and an ideal ergonomic workstation, there wouldn’t be so much back pain around!
Sometimes, it’s possible to change people’s behaviours in small ways which will spare them some pain down the line. Most of our patients keep up with their stretching and strengthening exercises very well after experiencing a painful episode, and for the most part that pays off for them. It’s often difficult, however, to get through to people on issues that just don’t seem like such a big problem – or in areas where they really can’t make a change anyway since, frankly, they don’t have much choice.
It wasn’t that long ago that the chiropractic profession embarked on such as mission, as we went on a campaign against what was then termed “text neck”. As mobile phones became more popular, and texting became our favourite way to communicate, many people found themselves “head down” for longer than ever before – with neck pain as the typical result. For the most part, this was a teenage phenomenon, after all, that group was the most invested in the shift to mobile devices – and despite the difficulty in getting through to this group, this was had some success… if not quite as much as we would have liked!
Today, we speak more about “tech neck” than text neck – although the clinical diagnosis is pretty much identical, the range of devices we now all rely on each and every day is that much larger, so that calling it “text neck” now seems a little to narrow. This isn’t the only thing that has changed though, let’s address the elephant in the room – in 2021, not least as a result of the pandemic, more of us than ever before work full time, or part-time in a remote capacity and now spend almost a whole day “head down” in some device or other.
So the question is – is it time for pragmatism? Can “tech neck” be defeated, or should we simply look to treat the discomfort it can cause?
Tackling tech neck
For adults, the basic issue with tech neck isn’t the tech – it’s the head down posture which comes with its usage. Therefore there is much that can be done by rearranging your work area or habits to ensure that when you’re on the PC, at least, you’re in a better position. It’s much more difficult to do this with phones or tablets which by their nature tend not to be at eye level. Taking regular breaks can also help – but it’s hard to escape the reality that for many of us our jobs now simply demand that we are somewhat glued to these devices – just putting them down isn’t always an option. If we can make some adjustments to our posture this helps, but we may now be at a point where it simply isn’t realistic to think that people can just avoid “tech neck”.
For children, the picture might be a bit clearer – there’s less of an argument for constant use of these devices, especially as school gets more back to normal. Further, we know that the impact of long term device usage on children may be more problematic, for example, Did you know…
- Low back pain is the 3rd most common form of pain interfering with schoolwork.
- It’s estimated that 50.3% of school-aged children present with posture disorders.
- Approximately 41.6% of children experience back pain from prolonged sitting.
Regular exercises and stretches can also make a big difference in combatting (but not stopping) tech neck. Making it a habit to look up (literally!) throughout the day is a significant first step in reducing the effects of “Tech Neck.”
Try this. – simply pull your chin back, stretch your arms out in front of you and open them wide, and look up to the ceiling and hold for 20-30 seconds. Try and repeat this stretch every 60 minutes to help reset your posture and body position. This is going to help… but is it going to fix the problem? Probably not.
So, Tech Neck… what to do?
In 2021, it seems an unfortunate reality that “tech neck” is going to be a factor of life for many of us – while we as chiropractors will always strive to encourage good posture, we can’t help but notice that even our day to day lives are now absolutely full of “head down” tech interactions.
So, can you avoid tech neck – yes, you certainly can – is it realistic?… perhaps not.
The good news is that “tech neck”, while an annoyance and discomfort, can be easily managed with chiropractic care – chiropractic adjustments are an excellent way to negate the painful effects of a head-down posture, and take only a few minutes out of your day. The important message from us to you is that while we always recommend prevention over treatment…. We get it. And we’re not going to keep lecturing you about having your head in that device… after all, we’re kind of stuck with it too!
 Text Neck Syndrome. Intl Journal of Env Research and Public Health. 2021., Back Pain in School Children. Dynamic Chiropractic. 1995., School Children’s Backpacks, Back Pain and Back Pathologies. Arch Dis Child. 2012.