What Is Tech Neck and How to Prevent It?

Have you had pain in your neck or back after using an electronic device for a long time? This curious condition is known as tech neck, discover how you can avoid it below.
What Is Tech Neck and How to Prevent It?

Last update: 21 April, 2021

Electronic devices are a fundamental part of the daily lives of millions of people around the world. Artifacts such as cell phones and computers are designed to make life easier for users. However, their  improper use can lead to the development of tech neck – but what is it and how can we prevent it?

The new generations are increasingly used to the use of electronic devices and social networks. Young people spend a lot of time looking at a mobile screen. In fact, studies have shown that people spend up to 143 minutes a day using a smartphone.

The prolonged use of mobile phones and computers, as well as the act of writing on them, can trigger posture problems in people of all ages. Because of this, instances of discomfort in the neck region and back have increased in frequency over time.

What is tech neck?

Tech neck is common today.
Patients may miss many daily activities due to severe pain.

This term was coined in recent years and is used to describe muscle and bone problems caused by the excessive use of electronic devices. The discomfort appears because people often look down when using these types of devices.

When the head is tilted down, the neck muscles must be kept contracted in order to support the head. After a certain time, the cervical muscles become fatigued and the characteristic symptoms of the syndrome in question appear.

If the cervical muscles are exhausted, the work of support will fall on the cervical vertebrae. Unlike the muscles, the spine is not designed to withstand great pressure for a long time, so more serious problems can appear.

Today, tech neck is considered an epidemic worldwide, since anyone who spends a long time looking down can suffer from it. This particular syndrome does not distinguish between sex or age, however, studies show that flexion is usually greater in women.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of tech neck is neck pain, which appears when the neck muscles are unable to support the head. The pain is constricting, that is, people may refer to it as pressure in the area, which will limit neck movements.

The muscles most involved in this position are the sternocleidomastoid and the trapezius, the latter muscle has fibers located in the back and near the shoulder. In this sense, pain can also be perceived in the mentioned areas.

Other very common symptoms of the syndrome in question are the following:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms in the neck
  • Pain between both scapulae
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty looking up for a while

Possible complications

The cervical spine is subjected to great pressure when you hold the head in a certain position for a long time. This leads to more severe long-term complications such as accelerated disc wear, which can lead to disc bulging and rupture.

People with a lump may perceive more intense pain and different sensory symptoms in the upper limbs. However, these complications are rare and take years to appear.

How to avoid tech neck?

It is important to note that there’s no single 100% effective measure to help prevent the appearance of this pain. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to reduce its incidence, among which the following stand out:

Take periodic breaks

In many cases, it’s impossible to reduce the use of electronic devices, as they can be closely linked to a person’s job. However, taking regular breaks greatly helps decrease neck pain, so doctors recommend taking short breaks every 30 minutes to 1 hour.

To accomplish the task, users can set alarms to initiate rest minutes. Stretching and relaxation exercises are also recommended during periods of rest. Performing these types of exercises will help to relax the cervical muscles and reduce pain.

Maintain a proper position

People must sit properly and maintain a correct posture when using a computer in order to avoid the appearance of tech neck. For a long time, experts had said that sitting upright is best, however, it’s actually best to sit at a 30-degree angle.

A 30-degree angle reduces the pressure on the lumbar vertebrae and cervical muscles. It’s also recommended to use a chair with adequate lumbar and cervical support, which will have the same function as the tilt.

Finally, the height of the screen of computers and mobile phones should be adjusted to avoid tilting the head while using it. Another good option is to raise your arms instead of tilting your head when writing on a smartphone or tablet.

Do aerobic exercises

Tech neck can be prevented with regular exercise.
Aerobic exercise doesn’t only reduce the frequency of these pains, but also provides benefits for the cardiovascular system.

Exercises not only help maintain good health in general, but also prevent the appearance of multiple diseases. In the case of the syndrome in question, the exercises help to improve the oxygenation of all the organs and to strengthen the muscles, including the cervical ones.

Specialists recommend doing aerobic exercises for at least 20 or 30 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week. Among the most recommended physical activities are walking, jogging and swimming, however, you can perform any type of exercise in order to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

Tech-neck: a common problem that can be avoided

Despite the fact that technology is designed to make people’s lives easier, it has also created several other problems. Tech neck is a syndrome that appears as a result of inadequate neck flexion for a long time, characterized by neck pain and stiffness.

This problem is preventable by following the above recommendations and rarely requires specialized care. However, a consultation with a physiotherapist can be useful in cases where the pain is more intense.

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  • Haneen M. Effects of texting on neck muscle activity and neck flexion in college students. University of Mississippi Honors Theses. 2018. 669.
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  • Cohen SP. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Feb;90(2):284-99.
  • Short N, Cool A, Delay A, ODonnell L, Lannom A, Stuber R. Mobile tech posture and the upper extremity: prevalence and biomechanics. Journal of Hand Therapy. 2019; 32(4): 553-554.
  • Meggett, Kinsey. A Dangerous Curve: The Effects Of Technology On The Cervical Vertebrae. South Carolina Junior Academy of Science. 2016. 154.

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