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The Dangers of Tech Neck

Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “tech neck,” you’re probably familiar with the pain it causes! It’s undeniable that technology makes some parts of your life easier and more enjoyable, but it can also cause painful, physical problems. 

Why tech neck is a problem

Your head probably weighs between 10-12 pounds. All that weight is supported by the slender column of your cervical spine -- the part of your spine that goes through your neck. 

When you hold your head in a neutral position, that is, when your ears are above your shoulders, your neck isn’t under much, if any stress. However, with each degree forward your head tilts, the pressure and strain on your neck surprisingly increases. Experts believe that when your head is tilted just 15 degrees, the effect on your neck is as if your head weighed 27 pounds, and, astonishingly, a 60-degree forward tilt equals a 60-pound effect on your neck! 

In other words, as your head tilts forward, the stress on your neck becomes problematic. And, it isn’t only your neck. Your entire spine and even your hips move to compensate for the strain on your neck. 

All of that pressure plays havoc with the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs in your upper back and neck.  

Muscle tension 

One of the first symptoms of tech neck is muscle tension. Your shoulders may feel tight, or your neck might feel stiff. You may experience muscle tension in your upper back -- or in all three areas. 

The neck pain comes from the weight of your head and the strain on your muscles. The shoulder pain may be because you’re likely hunching your shoulders as your head tilts forward. Upper back pain is a result of your body trying to compensate for the shift in your center of gravity.

Headaches

You may not have connected your frequent headaches with using a phone, or even an improperly set up desktop computer. Headaches are a common result of tech neck. 

Numbness and tingling

Over time, the muscle strain of tech neck can lead to pressure on your nerves. That can result in numbness, tingling, or weakness from your neck, down your arms, and even into your wrists and hands. 

Bulging or ruptured discs

Between each of your vertebrae, there’s a small, cushioning disc. In cases of persistent tech neck, the constant pressure on those discs can cause them to bulge or even rupture. The result is significant pain, pinched nerves, weakness, or numbness. In some cases, ruptured discs require surgical intervention.

How to prevent tech neck

The most important step in preventing tech neck is being aware of it and adjusting your posture. When you’re using your phone, or a tablet, raise the screen higher instead of tilting your head down to look at it. 

If you work at a computer all day, use a chair with a headrest, or better yet, work while standing as much as possible. Raise your screen to eye-level so that you aren’t looking down at it. If you use a laptop, get a second monitor, and raise it up to a comfortable height. 

If you look down often, you may have muscle imbalances. Stretching and strengthening the muscles of your neck, chest, and upper back can help. 

If you have persistent neck, shoulder, or upper back pain, call us today, and book an appointment with Mark Conliffe, D.O. at Commonwealth Musculoskeletal Medicine. Treatments are available that can help, and Dr. Conliffe is happy to show you techniques that can help prevent future problems with tech neck. 

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ALL ABOUT MARK CONLIFFE, D.O.

Dr. Mark Conliffe graduated from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine with a Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine in 2011. He is the only Board-Certified Neuromusculoskeletal Specialist in the city of Louisville, Kentucky.