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Tech Neck and Ergonomic Workspace Setup

woman on couch with neck pain“Tech neck” is a popular phrase bandied about in the media. But what exactly is it, and how can we avoid it or fix it? Read on to find out more!

You’ve likely heard the term “tech neck” before. It was a term coined by medical experts during the last several years to represent the damage and injuries they’re seeing in patients from excessive use of technology, either by way of our phones, iPads, or other handheld devices.

People are adapting their posture to look at these devices; unfortunately, it can have severe consequences. Here are a few tips about what to watch for, how to avoid it, and healthy habits to implement instead.

Overuse of Tech Devices Creates Long-Term Damage

As often as we look down at devices in our hands, many of us have adopted a forward head posture, where our ears no longer align over our shoulders, as they should be, but are coming forward ahead of the shoulder area.

Unfortunately, this changes the load of weight your head has over the shoulders and neck, and adds stress to the joints and the ligaments in the neck.

When we’re aligned correctly, with our ears over our shoulders, which are appropriately aligned over our hips and over our ankles, the human head averages about 12 pounds. But for every inch the neck is held forward past the shoulders, it can be an additional 10 pounds of weight the body has to endure in places where it’s not meant to handle that heavy of a load.

In addition to the extra weight, we’re also looking down more often, creating a significant amount of stress on those soft tissue structures as well as the bone.

Symptoms and Signs of Too Much Tech Use

Due to this overuse of tech devices, we’re seeing patients where the natural curvature lordosis in the neck is actually reversing in some cases, which is a complication we only used to see with whiplash injuries. The repetitive stress and strain on the muscles and ligaments, and joints are changing the curvature of patients’ spines!

Even patients in their 20s and 30s are showing this on X-rays, and it will cause long-term problems for everyone affected.

If you feel a significant sense of tension in the muscles, especially in your trapezius muscles—the line from our shoulders up and attached to the base of our skull—or you notice having more headaches, pain in the shoulders, or in the upper back, you’re likely having tech-related pain.

People with tech neck may also experience numbness and tingling in the arms. That’s related to the tension that happens in the front of the neck and in the upper chest area from that changed posture. It impedes the nerve and vascular flow through the front of the body.

Implement Ergonomic Workstations

proper desk ergonomicAn ergonomic workstation setup is vital in preventing and alleviating tech neck, but also essential for long-term productivity. Pain is one of the leading causes for reduced productivity in the workforce and our posture has a lot to do with that.

First, find a chair you can sit up in and put back against. It will help you sustain proper posture, with your head aligned correctly over your shoulders.

To keep your nerve and vascular flow to the arms in the proper position, how and where your keyboard is positioned in relation to your shoulders is also crucial. You want to have a natural bend to the elbows, so you’re not reaching too low, pulling your neck into a forward position.

Many of us work on dual screens, and where they are positioned is important. If you find yourself looking at one screen more than the other, and you’re turning your head and not your whole body, you can develop a muscular imbalance from that as well.

Maintaining Good Habits in Everyday Life

stretching at desk
There are many practical ways to maintain good posture when you’re out and about and using your tech devices.

  • First, always hold the device up in front of your eyes. Don’t force your head downward to look at it. There are lap desks that can help you with this when you’re in a seated position. Whatever it takes, ensure the device is elevated to help keep it at eye level.
  • We also recommend, especially for our high school and college-age patients, to take homework or reading to a desk or at a counter in the kitchen if necessary. Though you may think your neck is propped up while doing homework in bed, the positioning of the rest of your body can still allow your posture to be more forward than it should be.
  • When working off of a laptop, elevate the laptop and have a separate mouse and keyboard so you can keep that screen high, but have your hands down lower to be able to do the typing without straining your shoulders.
  • Practice stretching during extended work periods. Open the chest using the doorway or corner of a wall by stretching to open the pec muscles. Use lightweight training exercises to strengthen the back, along your shoulder blades, and the neck muscles, to endure the extra stress of tech use.

Contact Us Today to Reverse Your Tech Neck

Aside from these helpful tips, we can help you with chiropractic care for tech neck at Body Logic.

Whether it’s getting on the massage table, getting into our gym and doing stretches and exercises, or having a chiropractic adjustment, we can help your body return to proper lordosis and function with additional tips and activities to help you retain the improvements we make in-office at home.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step in reversing the effects of technology in our lives.

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