Advances in technology can change how certain types of injuries are classified. For instance, whiplash was once referred to as “railway spine” when trains were the preferred mode of transportation. Injuries from excessive neck craning were once more likely to affect individuals who had to lean forward to perform certain work-related duties or repetitive tasks. Today, the widespread use of handheld devices involving forward head-neck movement has resulted in related discomfort being commonly referred to as “tech neck.” If you happen to be a frequent gadget/device user, here are five things you can do to prevent tech neck pain.
1. Hold Your Devices Higher
You’re more likely to be straining your neck, upper back, and shoulder muscles if you’re in the habit of holding your device somewhere around your belly or mid-torso area. Instead, keep your tablets and smartphones at eye level when using them. If you’ll be using your tablet or laptop for a long time, consider using a holder or placing the device on a table or desk that’s high enough so you don’t have to bend your head and neck forward.
2. Take Frequent Breaks
If you’re going to be looking at a screen for a long time, give yourself frequent breaks to keep your neck-supporting muscles from becoming stiff and irritated. Your breaks can involve simple things such as:
• Adjusting your posture
• Moving around to increase circulation
• Doing quick stretches (e.g., side-to-side neck turns, chin tucks)
Bonus Tip: If you know you tend to lose track of time when doing anything involving a screen, set the alarm on your phone to remind you to take breaks.
3. Use a Chair with a Headrest
The easiest way to be more mindful of your head-neck alignment is to use an ergonomically designed chair with a headrest. This way, if you notice your head slowly inching forward and further away from the headrest as you use your device or laptop, you’ll know it’s time to lean back again and get into the correct alignment. It may take some time, but eventually you should be able to get into the habit of looking at your screen while still keeping your head flush against the headrest.
4. Strengthen Your Neck/Upper Back Muscles
When you’re not using any devices or looking at a screen, make an effort to do exercises that target muscles and other soft tissues in your neck and upper back area. By strengthening the muscle groups that support your neck, you’ll increase your odds of being able to naturally keep your head, neck, and shoulders aligned correctly. Doing so can also ease stress on the upper parts of your spine, boosting the health of your cervical discs and avoiding the need for surgical interventions such as minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills residents can achieve a better overall balance by also paying attention to their abdominal and lower back muscles. Exercise options include:
• Rotational resistance exercises that work all muscles in your neck at the same time
• Shoulder blade squeezes to target muscles that connect to ones in your neck
• Certain yoga moves that target the neck/upper back area (e.g., prone cobra, seated twist)
• Towel exercises targeting the neck area
• Side stretches combined with head movements
5. Pay Attention to Neck Pain
Consider any type of neck discomfort a sign that you’ve likely stressed and strained some soft tissues or joints in your neck from prolonged device use or years of poor head-neck balance. If the pain is mild or intermittent, try making changes to your posture and device use habits. However, you’ll want to see what your doctor or a Beverly Hills spine surgeon has to say if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Persistent pain in your neck or around your shoulder blades that isn’t going away after getting some rest, using over-the-counter medications, or making changes to your posture
• Numbness and/or tingling sensations extending to your shoulders and arms
• Frequent headaches
• Reduced range of motion in your neck
If you’re having severe or chronic neck pain, seek the advice of a spinal health specialist to get a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. The pioneering spinal health experts at The Spine Institute lead the industry, using the most innovative methods to treat all forms of neck and back pain. Reach out to our friendly staff today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.