When it is used properly, technology makes our lives easier, but what if it's literally causing you pain? Many studies have focused on the relationship between technology and stress, but few have considered the actual toll that it takes on our physical wellness.
Have you ever noticed your technology causing a physical strain in your neck? This happens when you repeatedly look down while using your mobile devices and computers. If your neck, shoulders, and back are frequently painful, then you may be a victim of "Tech Neck." Tech Neck results from excessive looking down that is usually associated with cell phones, computers, e-readers, and tablets. "Text Neck" is a similar phenomenon described by chiropractor Dr. Dean L. Fishman. He explains that it is "an overuse or a repetitive stress injury, where you have your head hung forward and down looking at your mobile device for extended periods of time."
Constantly looking down puts extra weight and strain on the muscles in your neck. As another doctor explains, the neck supports the head, which weighs between 10 and 12 pounds when it is in a neutral position. When you tilt your head forward just 15 degrees, that weight increases to 27 pounds. When you are hunched over at 60 degrees, the neck must support 60 pounds of weight.
In addition to muscle strain, our technology is also affecting the way that we look. Tech Neck is associated with a wrinkling condition as well. This condition features sagging jowls and increased wrinkles on the neck. While these attributes are normally just another sign of aging, they are affecting people at younger and younger ages, particularly ages 19 to 39.
Both "Tech Neck" and "Text Neck" can cause serious problems, so much so that many people require surgery to fix them. Instead of waiting it's too late, consider what you can now to avoid worsening this condition. (Because let's face it, you probably aren't getting rid of your phone, tablet, or computer any time soon.) Try these simple tips to help with your neck pains and strains.
Please keep in mind that these tips should not be your only reference if you are experiencing pain. Each individual has different needs, so see a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor for additional help with this condition.
- Get a massage.
Painful muscles are a great reason to get a massage. For those of us who are on our mobile devices constantly, setting up a designated time to get a massage is a great idea. Even if you cannot schedule a professional massage, take time for self-massage. I get massages every two weeks at a minimum and use the Bodyworks Ball in between and when I'm traveling. Even two minutes can make a significant difference.
- Try some stretching exercises.
Stretching out your neck muscles can be a great way to release tension as well. Get up and move around when you feel tension and set aside time to do some neck-specific exercises. (If you're unsure of which exercises will help your neck, try these ones recommended by Self Magazine.)
- Visit the chiropractor or physical therapist.
In the weeks that I don't have a massage scheduled, I head over to the chiropractor. A chiropractor can realign your neck and spine and alleviate some of the pain. Chiropractors are not strangers to Tech Neck, and see it often in the practice, particularly in younger generations. One chiropractor explains that the upper part of the spine has a natural curve so that the nerves have space to pass through the neck, but if that space is condensed, then it can cause serious problems. Tension this area can actually cause a pain that reverberates throughout your body.
- Hold your device higher (and avoid looking down for extended periods of time).
If you hold your mobile device higher, you will not put as much strain on your neck. Of course, this can be a little awkward, so it may be even more helpful if you get creative with how you utilize your technology. For example, use the dictation features instead of typing with your fingers. Dr. Fishman has even developed an app that will alert you when you have poor posture so you can correct it.
As business owners and entrepreneurs, it is important to maintain your personal health as well as that of your business. Being aware of these potential problems benefits your employees as well, as you develop workplace practices to decrease unhealthy habits and increase awareness.