The average human head weighs anywhere between 10-12 pounds. The neck was designed to hold that weight (and much more) when aligned properly on your spine.
When you look down at your cell phone, laptop, or tablet you exponentially increase the amount of weight placed on your neck. A good rule of thumb is that for every inch forward your head moves the weight of your head increases by 10 pounds.
This excess weight or stress on your neck over a period of time creates a pain in the back of your neck we like to refer to as “tech neck”.
Symptoms of “tech neck” include:
- upper back, neck and shoulder pain or stiffness
- head aches
- numbness down arms and hands
If not addressed and corrected “tech neck” can permanently damage postural alignment.
To put it in perspective imagine you are holding a 10 pound weight for an hour. Now, exchange that weight for a 60 pound dumbbell. How long could you hold it? Most people couldn’t hold it for more than a few minutes, yet we expect our neck muscles and ligaments to do it for hours as we gaze down at our devices.
Try this quick posture test: Stand with your shoulders, buttocks, and the back of your head touching the wall with your eyes looking straight ahead. Although this is normal posture, not everyone can achieve it. Were you able to maintain this posture comfortably?
Conservative treatment of the symptoms of tech neck can be very effective and reduce risk of long term postural damage.
Here are a few simple tips to keep you from developing tech neck.
- Set time limits. For every 20 minutes you are looking at a device you need a 3 minute break. If that seems unrealistic then simply try looking up for 10 seconds after looking down for several minutes.
- Use device holders on your phone and tablet to allow you to get your head in a better position.
- Check your work station to make sure your angles are ergonomically friendly.
- Use pain as your warning. If you’re having neck pain, stiffness or any of the other symptoms listed above more than twice a week, you need to contact a physical therapist to help you address these issues.