Technology has become an integral part of our lives – from smartphones and laptops to tablets and e-readers, we are constantly engaged with screens. However, this increased screen time often leads to a common and discomforting issue: neck pain. The frequent use of electronic devices can strain the neck muscles and lead to what’s commonly known as “tech neck.”
Once upon a time, chiropractors used to warn people about “text neck” – at the time, phones (an texting) were just becoming a major source of communication and entertainment and rates of neck pain were rising alongside. Fast forward more than a few years and technology usage has gone way beyond texting! At this point, it’s simply not realistic to tell people to reduce their usage of tech – so are there at least some things we can do to reduce the neck pain problems? Yes!
Maintain Proper Posture
The importance of good posture cannot be overstated when it comes to preventing neck pain from tech use. Slouching or hunching over your devices for extended periods places excessive stress on the neck and upper back muscles. To maintain proper posture:
- Sit up straight with your back against the chair and feet flat on the ground.
- Ensure that your screen is at eye level. If using a laptop, consider using an external keyboard and elevating the laptop to eye level with a laptop stand or a stack of books.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and your wrists in a neutral position.
Regularly checking and correcting your posture while using tech devices can significantly reduce the strain on your neck – it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up back in a sub-optimal posture, but checking in and correcting it can help bring you “back into balance”.
Take Frequent Breaks
Prolonged screen time can lead to continuous strain on the neck muscles. Combat this by incorporating regular breaks into your tech use routine. The 20-20-20 rule is a helpful guideline: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and focus on something 20 feet away. This simple practice helps relax the eye muscles and encourages you to stretch and readjust your posture, reducing the risk of neck pain.
During these breaks, perform gentle neck stretches to alleviate tension. Slowly tilt your head from side to side and forward and backward, being careful not to force any movements. These stretches can help relieve muscle stiffness and improve circulation.
Ergonomic Workspace Setup
Creating an ergonomic workspace is essential for preventing neck pain. Invest in ergonomic accessories such as an adjustable chair, keyboard, and mouse. Your computer monitor should be at eye level, directly in front of you, to prevent excessive neck bending.
If you’re using a laptop, consider using an external keyboard and mouse to maintain a more neutral wrist and arm position. A laptop stand can elevate the screen to eye level. Ergonomic adjustments at your workspace can make a significant difference in reducing neck discomfort especially if you’re working from home and don’t have a traditional office setup.
Strengthen Neck and Shoulder Muscles
Rather than just focusing on protecting the neck, we can also take a different approach and look to strengthen it. Regular neck and shoulder exercises can, over time, help strengthen the muscles that support the neck, reducing the risk of pain. Some simple exercises to consider include:
- Neck tilts: Slowly tilt your head from side to side, holding each position for a few seconds.
- Neck rotations: Gently rotate your neck in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Shoulder shrugs: Lift your shoulders toward your ears and hold for a few seconds, then relax.
- Neck stretches: Tilt your head forward, backward, and to each side, using gentle pressure from your hand to deepen the stretch.
Gradually incorporate these simple exercises into your daily routine to improve neck muscle strength and flexibility, however if any exercise causes pain, don’t continue with it!
Use Technology Mindfully
Finally, one of the most effective ways to reduce neck pain from tech use is to practice mindfulness. Be aware of how much time you spend on electronic devices and make conscious efforts to limit screen time when possible. Establish tech-free zones in your home, such as the dining room or bedroom, to encourage breaks from screens.
Consider using apps or device settings that remind you to take breaks and track your screen time. These tools can help you become more mindful of your tech use habits and reduce the strain on your neck.
Help with neck pain
As a chiropractor, we recommend making lifestyle changes which can try to prevent neck pain from being a problem in the first instance – however, let’s be realistic, for many it simply won’t be possible to avoid any discomfort from excessive tech usage. If that sounds like you, chiropractic could be an excellent option to help combat neck pain and keep your spine working as well as possible, even given the poor posture you might not be able to avoid. For a limited time, you can take advantage of our new patient special, and get your first treatment totally free!