Your neck’s primary job is supporting and stabilizing the head. That’s an average load of 11 pounds, on average, supported by 20 muscles and balanced atop seven vertebrae.
It’s a substantial load, and good human posture aids the process by holding this weight over your body’s center of gravity. This minimizes the work of those muscles and bones.
Leaning forward to view your smartphone screen or to work on a laptop takes you out of an optimal upright posture, and instead of balanced distribution, your body must work hard to counter these changing forces.
Over time, this imbalance may create chronic pain stemming from repetitive strain injuries in the neck and shoulders.
The team at Westside Pain Specialists is ready to help you with neck pain, whether from tech neck or any other cause, with customized pain management plans. You can, however, take steps now to minimize the impact of modern technology. Here’s what you need to know about the causes and prevention of tech neck.
How technology affects your body
Tech neck, also called text neck, isn’t a formal medical term, but it’s commonly used to describe the effects of tech devices on the body. These devices tempt you to adopt a head-forward posture to see the information on screen while entering data with your fingers and thumbs.
This head-forward position introduces stressful forces on your body. When you’re sitting upright, the weight of your head exerts downward force equal to its mass, about 11 pounds for the average American. As you tilt your head forward, that force increases, since your body has to support this weight.
To understand how shifting weight increases force, consider holding a bowling ball close to your chest. You can feel the weight, but it’s not difficult to support it. Now extend your arms forward from your body and note how the force changes. You won’t hold the bowling ball for long like this.
Bending your neck forward can increase force up to about five times the weight of your head.
Facet joints between the vertebrae of your neck overextend forward, causing uneven pressure on the cushioning discs between vertebrae. These discs act as spacers and shock absorbers, and when they’re compressed unevenly, problems may begin.
Uneven forces could lead to disc rupture, and spaces between spinal column structures change. This, in turn, can compress or irritate nerve tissue, creating pain. It’s not a sudden injury. In fact, it can take 10 to 30 years for serious problems to develop, so taking action now may improve your long-term prognosis.
Easing tech neck strain
Understanding an awareness of the health risks is key to preventing tech neck. A few small changes to your use of tech devices add up to make a big difference in the forces your body must bear.
Make a plan for posture checks. Set a timer on your computer or fitness device to alert you periodically through the day, particularly if your job requires a fixed position.
Raise the screen
Boosting the height of your device reduces the force on your neck, even if the screen is only 10 or 15 degrees higher.
Taking a short break every 20 to 30 minutes gives your body a chance to reset. You’re made for motion, and this can counter time spent in a single position.
Strengthen your neck
Poor screen posture is occasionally impossible to avoid. Learn and use exercises that boost muscle strength, throw your shoulders back, and neutralize your posture.
When you need personalized pain care, contact Westside Pain Specialists. Call the office closest to you, in Beverly Hills or Rancho Cucamonga, to arrange your consultation. There’s no need to live in pain, so book now.