The Dangers of Tech Neck

Can you remember your adult life without your cell phone? Smartphone technology has enhanced our lives in so many ways — we always have a camera with us, we can check the score when our favorite team is playing, we can get directions, track our workouts, and order things on Amazon with our thumbs. 

While these conveniences are certainly making our lives easier and allowing us to stay perpetually connected to friends and family, cell phones are doing another thing: causing a condition known as “tech neck.” 

You may not even realize that all that time you spend looking down at your phone is causing damage to your neck. Consider this: Your head weighs about 12 pounds. When you bend your head forward just 15 degrees, it’s like your neck is supporting a 27-pound weight. Bend your neck 60 degrees and your neck is now supporting a 60-pound weight!

Over time, all this strain on your muscles, nerves, and bones in your cervical (upper) spine can do considerable damage. And, when you consider how many hours a day you spend looking down at your phone, this kind of neck strain can add up quickly. 

The experienced team of physicians and pain management specialists at Boston PainCare explain how tech neck can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal problems. If you live in Waltham, Concord, or Natick, Massachusetts, or the surrounding communities, and you experience neck pain, we can help identify and treat the underlying cause of your discomfort. 

Common tech neck problems

We might be stating the obvious, but the most common symptom of tech neck is neck pain and soreness in the back or side of your neck. Wear-and-tear on your neck that comes from looking down at your phone can lead to bulging or herniated discs in your spine. 

Pain in your shoulders and upper back

In addition to neck pain, you might also experience pain in your shoulder and upper back. This discomfort may range from a dull, nagging ache to sharp, severe spasms that cause your upper back and shoulders to be perpetually tense.

Nerve problems

You have a cluster of nerves in your neck and upper spine. If one of these cervical nerves becomes pinched as a result of looking down so much, pain may radiate down your arm, into your elbow, and all the way to your fingers.

Headaches 

If the muscles in your neck stay in spasm too long, all that neck tension can lead to frequent headaches

Ultimately, if you continue staring down at your phone for the average five hours a day, you’re most likely going to develop poor posture and spinal problems down the road. 

Take steps to prevent and treat tech neck

Smartphones aren’t going away, so it makes sense to learn how to prevent tech neck and take steps to minimize the effects of continually looking down at your phone. It may be as simple as keeping your cell phone and other digital screens at eye level throughout the day, rather than holding them in your lap.  

Adjust computer screens

It’s not just your phone, either. Be sure to put your desk computer at eye level, or so you’re looking up slightly, rather than tilting your neck downward or stretching your neck forward to see the monitor clearly. 

Take breaks and stretch

Remember to take frequent breaks throughout your work day, taking time to stand up every half hour or so to walk around the office. Do some neck stretches at your desk to stay loose, such as tipping your head backward and side-to-side. Walk away from your phone and computer and look up frequently to counteract all your focus downward. 

Be mindful of pain

Pain can be an indicator that it’s time to change positions. Be mindful of your posture, and move around if your neck starts hurting. 

Strengthen your neck and core

It’s a good idea to develop a fitness routine to build strong core muscles to support your upper body, including your neck. Building strong and flexible neck muscles will minimize the strain on your neck and help support your head as well. Yoga stretches after work or before you start your day can help reduce stress and discomfort on your neck, upper back, and shoulders. 

Does your neck hurt at the end of the day? If you have pain in your neck, upper back, shoulders or spine, or pain that radiates down one arm, it’s time to get checked out by an expert. Contact the pain management specialists at Boston PainCare to schedule a consultation by phone, or request an appointment online at one of our three Boston area locations. 

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