What is Tech Neck?

Posted by Lucy Jones on

 If you own a smartphone (chances are you do) it’s likely that you’ve experienced tech neck. Smartphone owners spend hours each day hunched over their screens, which often results in stiffness and pain in the neck area. Most of us don’t even realize how often we’re checking our phones, handheld device, or laptops until this sort of pain arises, but when it does, devices like the Neck Hammock can help manage and alleviate symptoms.  

What Causes Tech Neck?

Heads are heavy. The neck, a relatively fragile area, is perfectly designed to structurally support the head and hold it upright, but when we spend long periods of time holding the head at a 45-degree angle it places an incredible amount of stress on the area.

Since the advent of smartphones, people all over the world spend hours each day hunched over their screens. We check our phones constantly without realizing it – it’s practically a universal tic – and one of the unexpected consequences was this very specific physical ailment. Originally called “text neck,” the phrase had to be expanded to acknowledge the laundry list of things we do while hunched over our screens.

The cervical spine, which is the upper region of the spine that holds the head aloft, is the area most affected by tech neck. It consists of seven vertebrae, which can be felt if you rub your hand along the back of your neck. While the neck is designed to support the average 10 to 12 pound head, this weight becomes significantly heavier when tiled forward and no longer supported by the rest of the body. In fact, the amount of force exerted on the cervical spine as a result of this tilt can reach up to 60 pounds of downward force.  

Early Signs of Tech Neck

Even though the phrase “tech neck” specifically indicates the neck, the symptoms often begin elsewhere. The spine stretches from your head down through your back; if stress is placed on one area, it is likely to spread to others, or at least be felt in other regions. In the case of tech neck, the bending of the cervical spine often manifests as pain the upper back.

Tech neck pain is also very specific. If you’re experiencing pain that does not fit this description, it’s possible that you’re suffering from something else and should consult a medical professional. Most often, tech neck manifests as:

  • Pain in the upper back
  • Mild ache in the neck
  • Stiffness or sharp pain in the neck
  • Reduced mobility in the shoulder/neck region

In most cases, it’s easy to determine if you’re suffering from tech neck. How do you figure it out? Ask yourself if you’ve been hunched over a screen for a sustained period of time. If you have, it’s likely that you’re suffering from this ailment.

Ignoring Tech Neck

If you ignore the early warning signs of tech neck, the symptoms will only worsen. The neck is incredibly sensitive, and as soon as you feel yourself starting to experience stiffness or pain, you should try to alter the way you typically sit. If you must continue looking at your screen, place it somewhere in front of you where you’re not required to hunch over.

When tech neck is ignored, it’s possible to aggravate pre existing conditions. In most cases, ignoring tech neck will simply lead to more pain the neck and shoulder area. Over time, repeatedly experiencing tech neck might lead to consistent pain in the area, which can be harder to manage. However, those with the following diseases must be more wary of tech neck than most people:

  • Cervical osteoarthritis
  • Cervical degenerative disc disease

Both conditions can be aggravated by the associated stress of tech neck. If you suffer from either, it’s important to carefully monitor the amount of time you spend bent over a screen.

Treating Tech Neck

If you find that you’re constantly suffering from tech neck, it’s possible to manage your symptoms and achieve long-term relief with cervical traction. Traction is the process of decompressing the spine by gently stretching vertebrae that might be squished too tightly together. Is traction good for neck pain? Traction is a fantastic remedy for myriad problems, but it can be especially effective when used as a treatment for tech neck.

Many people opt for cervical traction when they don’t want to rely on medication or doctor’s visits to alleviate tech neck. While taking pain medication can provide temporary relief, it does not address the underlying causes.

What is Cervical Traction?

Simply put, cervical traction is a treatment that involves gently pulling the head away from the neck. When you use a cervical traction device, you alleviate compression of your vertebrae and promote expansion throughout the area. This can be done by yourself at home using devices like Neck Hammock, or it can be done with the help of a physical therapist.

Benefits of Cervical Traction

There are several cervical traction benefits, and the good news is that they all lead to the alleviation of tech neck pain. The process can do much more than provide short-term relief – the long-term benefits, which are still being studied, seem to include a range of upsides which can help stave off tech neck.

  • Increase mobility in neck by stretching out both muscles and vertebrae in the cervical spine
  • Relieve pain and stiffness while expanding vertebrae
  • Treat herniated or bulging discs in the neck area, often the product of compaction
  • Alleviate joint, sprain, and spasm pain
  • Treat pinched nerves

Tech neck is specifically caused by physical stress, placed on the neck area, by holding the head at a 45-degree angle or greater and expanding the area, causing the neck muscles to loosen up. This process helps you improve your range of motion, mobility, and can alleviate the pain associated with tech neck.

Other Ailments Treated by Cervical Traction

While cervical traction is fantastic for treating tech neck, it can also relieve symptoms of chronic neck pain caused by various other conditions.

  • Long distance driving is a reliable source of neck stress. By staring at the road and concentrating on the area in front of you for sustained periods of time, tension tends to build in the cervical spine.
  • Anxiety is another common neck pain trigger. Because of the network of nerves that run from your head through your body, your anxiety, generated in your brain, tends to affect other areas. Your shoulders tighten, your neck begins to ache, and tension builds.
  • During pregnancy, women often report the experience of dull, aching pain that begins in the neck and shoulders. This pain can spread throughout the upper torso and can become incredibly uncomfortable.

Cervical traction is a great way to manage the neck pain associated with long-distance driving, anxiety, and pains associated with pregnancy. Devices like Neck Hammock – small, foldable, portable – are ideal for treating these symptoms no matter when or where they appear.  

How to Prevent Tech Neck

While cervical traction devices can help you treat tech neck, there are several ways to get ahead of symptoms. By altering the ways you interact with technology, you can save yourself from experiencing frustrating pain.

If you couple these adjustments with frequent cervical traction, it’s possible to not only prevent and alleviate tech neck symptoms, but to promote overall wellness and mobility in the neck and shoulder region. Such preventative care can help you achieve long-term benefits that will ensure comfort and physical health.

Set Reminders

If you’re going to be using your phone for a sustained amount of time, consider setting a timer. If you set an alert for every 15-20 minutes, it’s easier to keep track of the amount of time you’re spending hunched over your device.

One of the major problems with tech neck is that most people are unconscious of the amount of time they’re spending on their phones. Hours can fly by, and the accumulated time throughout a day often takes a serious toll. Reminders are the perfect way to counter this.

Pay Attention to Your Body

Your body will let you know if something’s wrong. There is a difference between “good pain” and “bad pain” – the former is the result of exercise and safely working out your muscles, and the latter is the result of awkward movements or stress. Knowing the difference between the two is important. If you can make that distinction, you should be able to make adjustments when you start to feel the onset of tech neck.

Chairs with Headrests

If you have the option, use a chair that comes with a headrest. There are several reasons for this. Chairs with headrests provide more support to your cervical spine and take a lot of the weight off of your neck. They also promote better and a more upright posture. If you feel the headrest behind you, it’s a good reminder that the rest of your body should also be aligned with the back of the chair.

If you sit in a chair without a headrest, the responsibility of keeping your head straight falls entirely on you. Most people will conform their bodies to the shape of the chair, and if there’s no headrest they will inevitably slouch.

Place Devices at Eye Level

Tech neck happens when our devices are resting in our laps or are held down by our waists. By falling into the habit of raising your tech devices to eye level, you can prevent the symptoms of tech neck from ever developing.

However, it’s not always possible or convenient to do this. There are times, especially in public spaces, where holding your devices out in front of you might be impossible or overly conspicuous. But when you get the chance, try falling into the habit of lifting your tech devices to a height where your neck isn’t strained by looking at them.

Stretch

Stretching and loosening your neck muscles is healthy and helps prevent against all sorts of potential injuries. By making sure that your muscles are limber, you improve your mobility and ability to hold potentially uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time. With the aid of devices like Neck Hammock, stretching can become a mainstay in your self-care routine. Discover beneficial neck stretches for a stiff neck in our related blog post.

Exercise

It’s hard to find time to work out every day, but if it’s possible for you to find thirty minutes a couple times a week, the benefits are immense. Not only does doing exercises promote physical health, but its ability to alleviate stress and improve your sense of well-being are highly documented and scientifically proven. Neck exercises specifically can help relieve pain from tech neck. Read our related blog that answers the question, Do neck exercises really work?

Drink Water

Hydration is vitally important for all people. When your body is water deprived, aches and pains are more likely to occur and you become more prone to ailments like tech neck. Your goal should be to drink around 8 glasses of water per day. While that may sound like a lot to some people, it is the standard recommended amount by most physicians.

Final Thoughts on Tech Neck

Technology is an integral part of daily life. We use it for everything from communicating with friends and family to watching our favorite TV shows while in transit. These days, it’s impossible to avoid, and the consequences of this fairly recent development will not be fully understood for years.  However, in the interim, there are things we can do to stave off the physical toll tech takes on the body.

By taking preventative measures, it’s possible to make tech neck an infrequent nuisance, but the reality is that most of us will spend at least some time each day looking down at our phones. Because of this, almost everyone will end up experiencing the frustrating pain associated with this ailment with some regularity. 

In the interest of long-term health, devices like Neck Hammock, which facilitate cervical traction, have never been more important. They directly target the affected region and make sure that the vital vertebrae in your neck avoid compaction, and enjoy the maximum amount of possible mobility. Because they are affordable, easy to use and highly portable, it’s likely that these devices will continue to play a large role in society moving forward. 

Sources

NCBI, “Text neck and neck pain in 18-21-year-old young adults.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29306972

ResearchGate, “Awareness of text neck syndrome in young-adult population.”

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326567559_Awareness_of_text_neck_syndrome_in_young-adult_population

U.S. News, “When tech is a pain in the neck,” https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2018-09-24/when-tech-is-a-pain-in-the-neck