Do you have neck pain while working on your computer? Could your cell phone be indirectly causing your headaches? Are you struggling with neck pain and can’t seem to find the cause?
Neck pain and technology seem to go hand in hand these days. Technology is amazing – Cell phones, tablets, laptops and desktops computers all make our life easier. But at what cost – usually our neck, head and upper back. How many hours do you spend on technology a day? If you are like most Americans, it could be up to 10 hours. All that time on devices can create muscle strain and tension.
December is Neck Pain Awareness Month here at Balance Within, and we are going to be exploring some common causes and simple solutions to this challenging condition.
This week, we are exploring neck and upper back pain and the common culprit that causes it – our sitting posture and the newly coined phrase of tech neck.
What is Tech Neck Pain?
Tech neck is not technically a medical term but is a common phrase used to describe the position that our neck is often in while sitting or standing while on our cellular devices, tablets or computers.
With so many of us working from home, streaming new movies and shows, hunched over our cellphones and tablets, it can be easy to slip into “comfortable” sitting positions that put unnecessary strain on our bodies and build tension patterns in the back, neck, and even head. Sitting hunched over a computer, tablet or cellphone all day sounds terrible, and we all know intuitively how “bad” it is for our posture – but I bet a lot of you reading this even now might find yourself leaning forward, head tucked down, shoulders hunched. Your head weighs approximately 10 pounds and your neck and spine are designed to support your head in an upright position. When standing or sitting with your shoulders back, head up straight, your neck and upper back are positioned correctly. But when you spend hours in a sitting, hunched position with your head tilted down, your head can go from a 10 pound fixture to feeling like up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck depending on the angle of your head. This can over time cause pain and discomfort from your upper back, shoulders, neck all the way to your jaw and head.
Typical Symptoms of Tech Neck
- Pain in the neck, upper back and/or shoulders
- Forward posture and rounded shoulders
- Increased pain when flexing the neck
- Reduced mobility and headaches
- Numbness in hands
- Pain in jaw
These symptoms may ease once you straighten your posture and hold your head up right but prolonged poor posture could increase your risk of neck and shoulder pain that will not ease with minor corrections.
Take this opportunity now to straighten up, inhale deep into your belly, realign your ears, shoulders, rib cage, and hips, and just notice – aah, what a difference, right?
Simply adjusting your posture can make a world of difference, and sometimes, we need a bit more. Working to release the pectoral muscles at the front of the chest is actually key to experiencing greater flexibility and comfort in the upper and mid back!
A Simple Stretch to Help Ease Tech Neck Pain
In this week’s Expert Video, Dr. Jill shares a quick, simple exercise to open the mid and upper back by releasing the muscles in the chest and around the ribs, and all you need is a bath towel. Check it out below!
To practice this chest-opening, posture-aligning pose, simply position a bath towel along the spine. You’ll want the bottom of the towel positioned below your glutes to support your pelvis and the top of the bolster along the back of your head to support your neck.
Once you’ve got the towel in position, simply lay back onto it and relax. Open your arms out into a big T shape, straight out from your shoulders. You might be surprised just how much tension you feel across your chest!
If the openness of your arms fully extended feels like too much for you, you can play with the arms by moving them up or down along your sides, and even bending at the elbows as the arms remain parallel to the ground in the “touchdown” position.
Once you find a comfortable yet active placement, stay in this position for at least two minutes, breathing deeply and really noticing the lengthening and opening in your body. How does it feel in your chest? Your mid back? How about your neck? Can you feel a difference in your head, too?
After the two minutes are up, bring your arms back in towards your body and gently roll off the towel. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you stand up, and all it took was two minutes of your day!
Other tips to ease tech neck pain
- Adjust your workstation – keep your monitor at eye level
- Use a standing desk or treadmill desk
- Use a chair with a headrest and sit all the way back into the chair for support.
- Spread out your screen time over the day
- Take frequent breaks and stretch throughout the day
- Hold your cell phone or tablet 10 degrees higher to avoid looking down
While these simple tips are sure to help, it’s important to remember there can be so many factors that go into causing postural patterns and neck pain, and it is really only by working with one of our highly specialized therapists individually to help understand and heal from your particular issue that you will receive the most specific and effective support for you.
If you’re not ready to commit to a personalized plan of care just yet but would like to learn even more tools to help ease neck pain, download our free neck pain guide below.
Click here to request a FREE Neck Pain Consultation with one of our Neck Pain Specialist Physical Therapists today.