looking over the shoulder of a woman in the foreground who is holding and looking down at a cell phone


Tech neck: Causes, symptoms and prevention

  • Tech neck hits users of smartphones and computers.
  • Pain is caused by straining neck muscles while using technology.
  • There can be long-term consequences from unaddressed tech neck.

Scrolling your phone’s feed while waiting in line at the coffee shop. Catching up on projects while squeezed into an airline seat. Replying to emails on your laptop before bed. We spend a lot of time hunched over our modern tools, and it’s becoming a collective pain in the neck. There’s even a term for it.

Tech neck and its risks

Tech neck syndrome describes the pain caused by continuous strain on neck muscles while using smartphones, tablets and computers.

The more you look down, the more your muscles work to keep your head up. Over time, tech neck can damage those muscles and misalign the spine, leading to a painful list of possible issues, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Joint inflammation
  • Pinched nerves
  • Herniated discs

Preventing tech neck

Reports of neck pain are now as prevalent as back pain. About 7 in 10 university students and 65% of people who work from home have neck or back pain. Nearly 40% of them admit to being less productive as a result.

A static and flexed neck position — like the way you may position yourself while looking at a social media feed — is the most common posture contributing to neck pain. Doctors call it the forward head posture and it can mean trouble.

Your head weighs 10-12 pounds and holding it out over your body can place 50 pounds of force on your neck. Your body isn’t built to withstand this kind of force for a long time. The result can be pain in the neck and other areas.

You may feel it in your head, upper back, shoulders and arms. You may also have tingling, numbness, dizziness or feel sick to your stomach.

Here are three easy ways to protect against tech neck:

  1. Improve your posture. Avoid bending over while you read or write. Hold your phone out and up. Raise your computer monitor and other work to eye level whenever possible to reduce hunching.
  2. Change positions often. Avoid extended periods of being stuck in the same spot. Take breaks during long projects to prevent overuse and strain of the muscles and ligaments that support your neck.
  3. Get moving. Do regular aerobic exercises, including walking, biking and swimming, to increase blood flow and strengthen the muscles, ligaments and discs in your spine and neck.

Next steps: If self-care doesn’t improve your tech neck symptoms, physical therapy and massage may help. Spine specialists can offer other remedies during consultations


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