The strong pull of social media isn’t going anywhere soon. Neither are the smartphones that most of us carry day and night to check our networks or send and receive business emails outside of the walls of work. We use our phones as our clocks, navigation, and of course, our key point of communication. We have grown to rely on them for everyday function.
While this age of technology can feel exciting and like it’s expanding our reach within the world, the truth is that most of us don’t realize just how much time we spend looking down because of it. After all, it isn’t exactly natural to hold our phones at eye level to respond to text messages or scroll through the latest social media feeds. However, it’s also not great for our necks and shoulders when our heads are tilted downwards for extended periods of time.
So what’s the answer?
No, you don’t need to give up your smartphone, or computer for that matter to maintain good neck health. However, chances are you could be more proactive with caring for your neck to avoid what’s known as “tech neck.”
What Is Tech Neck?
Tech neck, also referred to as “text neck”, is the pain or discomfort that can come from keeping the head tilted downwards while looking at a personal device. When the head spends a prolonged amount of time in this downward position, it’s easy to develop a slew of negative conditions if you’re not careful, including muscle strains, chronic poor posture, nerve damage injury, disc herniation, chronic headaches, neck and back pain, and more.
These may seem like drastic conditions to come from such a simple, everyday activity: checking our phones. However, what many people fail to realize is the added strain that tilting our head forward puts on our spine— the further our head tilts forward, the more drastic the effect. An average adult head weighs about 10-15 pounds, but the degree in which we tilt it forward can exponentially increase this number. In fact, when your head is at a 60-degree tilt, a common position during phone usage, you’re putting up to 60 pounds of force through your neck. Combine this with frequent phone usage, and it’s easy to see how problems begin to emerge. Keep in mind that these kinds of conditions build slowly over time, but can be persistent once they arrive.
While there are simple ways to prevent and treat tech neck, perhaps the trickiest part is managing your daily personal device usage. We’ll talk about how to have a healthy relationship with technology while still protecting your body.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Neck
Knowledge is power. For starters, try to get a better grasp on how much time you actually spend on your smartphone— it may surprise you! In fact, studies have shown that the average American spends over three hours on their phone per day. That’s three hours each day with your neck bent in a way that is not healthy long term. Trust us, that time and stress on your neck can quickly add up.
A great way to understand your technology habits and usage is to use the function on your phone or an app that tracks your screen time, like Moment. These apps can tell you how much time you’re spending and in what areas of your phone. It even allows you to set screen time goals to track progress over time. The purpose of using an app like this isn’t to eliminate using your smartphone; rather, it helps keep you aware of the extraneous time you may be spending scrolling aimlessly.
Aside from learning to be more intentional with time spent on your personal devices, it’s important to give your neck a little extra care. If you do work in an environment where you’re looking down at a screen constantly, try to work in frequent mini-breaks where you can gently rotate your head from side-to-side and stretch your neck.
If you’re able, elevating your device to eye level can eliminate a good amount of the strain that accompanies consistent technology usage. This is partially why many have found the benefit of using standing desks at work, to help both with lower back and neck posture.
How Can Chiropractic Help With Tech Neck?
Incorporating consistent chiropractic into your routine is a great way to stay on top of overall health, particularly the neck and shoulder pain that can come from heavy tech usage. The gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities that your chiropractor may perform can help to alleviate the pressure in your joints, decrease inflammation, and allow your entire body to function optimally. That’s a huge win in overall health.
If you’re using personal devices consistently, ongoing chiropractic care can help keep you ahead of issues like tech neck before they start.