Our dependence on smartphones is so significant that Americans spend an average of four hours each day looking at a device. If you sleep eight hours, that means you’re staring at a screen for 25% of the time that you’re awake.
While this dependence on smartphones and other devices affects how we act and interact, it also impacts our physical well-being. Research indicates that repeatedly hunching over a screen for long periods can cause “tech neck,” a condition that results from hunching your head over to stare at a hand-held device. The effects can permanently damage your neck and spine as well as initiate a wide range of related physical problems.
Determining whether you’re experiencing tech neck requires the care of a trained neck and spine specialist. Chiropractor Chris Long, DC, of Empower Medical Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for neck pain and other symptoms of tech neck. Dr. Long uses customized chiropractic care to relieve pain and reduce the damage of tech neck for patients of all ages.
Read on to find out more about the dangers of tech neck. Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or want to protect yourself from its effects, find out why it’s so important to consider in your everyday device use.
Why tech neck occurs
Problems originate in your neck because your neck, upper back, and shoulders support the weight of your head. Your head weighs 10-12 pounds when it’s in the neutral position, facing straight with shoulders back. However, the weight distribution changes as you hunch over to stare at a hand-held device.
When you bend your head forward 15 degrees, the weight of your head more than doubles to 27 pounds. At 45 degrees, your head weighs 49 pounds; at 60 degrees, it weighs 60 pounds. The further you bend over, the harder your muscles have to work to support your head. Since your muscles weren’t designed to accommodate this position, doing so for long periods results in muscle strain.
How tech neck makes you feel
The most common symptoms of tech neck involve neck stiffness that occurs after long periods of device usage. You may feel it most intensely when you try to turn your head from side to side after you’ve been hunched over.
Tech neck is also categorized by varying types and degrees of pain in the lower part of your neck. When pain occurs in one area, the sensation can include general soreness and a feeling that ranges from a dull ache to an extremely sharp stab. When pain spreads, it can start in a nerve in your neck then spread to your shoulders and arms.
Other types of discomfort can include weakness and numbness, especially in the shoulder muscles. Tension-type headaches can also occur in response to having your head out of balance as you tilt it down or bend it forward over your shoulders.
Long-term consequences of tech neck
You can increase your risk for developing long-term, chronic conditions if you ignore the symptoms of tech neck. If left untreated, tech neck can result in inflammation of the muscles, nerves, and ligaments in your neck. The circumstances can lead to the early onset of arthritis and spinal degeneration.
When muscles strain to hold up your head, they put more pressure on your discs and can cause early disc deterioration. Left untreated, the effects can result in disc compression and disc herniation.
Keeping your head in a prolonged forward position can also cause weakness in the muscles that assist in respiration. This can result in a reduction of lung capacity.
What you can do to prevent tech neck
You can help reduce your risk for developing long-term damage from tech neck. Try these simple strategies to minimize the strain on your neck and encourage good posture while using your devices:
- Take breaks every 15-20 minutes for about 30 seconds to rest your eyes and stretch
- Put your device down every hour and walk around or do something different
- Use reminders to follow time limit guidelines
- Include neck and back strengthening exercises in your workout and during breaks
- Hold or position your smartphone at eye level to keep your neck in a neutral position
- Practice good posture when sitting and standing
Find out more about the dangers of tech neck and what you can do to prevent long-term damage. Schedule an appointment online or call our office for a consultation.