The act of holding your head flexed and forward while looking down at your handheld device and/or laptop screen places your cervical spine in a tenuous position.
See How to Avoid Text Neck Overuse Syndrome
Over long periods of time, maintaining this head-forward posture can lead to muscle strain, disc injury, nerve impingement and arthritic changes of the neck—and the potential for developing ongoing neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and pain radiating down the arms.
Originally termed "text neck"—the new term Tech Neck highlights the fact that it's not just texting anymore—almost all the time we spend looking at any screen has the potential for damaging the neck.
See Neck Pain Causes
5 simple steps to prevent tech neck
To avoid developing degenerative neck changes due to posture, here are several simple steps you can start today.
- Set time limits. Limit the amount of time and frequency that you use your device. If you have to use it for an extended period of time, take breaks. Develop a habit of taking a three-minute break for every 15-20 minutes you use your device. Change your posture and move around.
- Set automatic reminders. Utilize an automatic alarm with your smart device reminding you to take a time out. For those of you that have wearable devices these can be set to remind you to break, such as the iWatch which can tap you every 15-20 minutes.
- Use a tablet holder. Purchase a holder to elevate your device to significantly reduce the amount of neck flexion and forward positioning. Try to keep the device as close to eye-level as possible. This is a great tool to reduce Tech Neck.
- Sit in a chair with a headrest. Switch to a chair with a headrest, and make sure to keep the back of your head in contact with the headrest while using your tablet, phone or laptop. Keeping the back of your head flush against the headrest will ensure that you're not looking down with your neck flexed forward.
- Use pain as a warning. If you're experiencing pain in your neck, between the shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in the arms, or frequent headaches there may be a more serious issue going on. Pay attention to these warning signs and act quickly to make changes to reduce or eliminate any head-forward posture that is straining your neck.
If utilizing the above methods and reducing the time you spend on handheld devices doesn't improve these symptoms, then it's time to seek help from a qualified health professional. As a general rule, the sooner you seek treatment the more likely it is that you'll have success in treating the problem.