10 Tips for Managing Tech Neck

Did you know the average person spends two to four hours a day looking at the screen on their phone? While this keeps everyone up-to-date on Facebook statuses, it plays havoc on your neck and spine. At Jochen Chiropractic and Wellness in Beverly Hills, California, we see patients all the time with complaints of neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and radiating pain down the arm — all caused from spending too much time staring at a mobile device.

When you look at your phone, your head moves out of its natural position, tilting both forward and down. While this is OK for a glance, holding this position for long periods puts stress on your cervical spine, as well as the muscles and nerves in your neck and shoulders.

If you have good posture, your head sits directly above your neck. In this position, the neck only has to hold the head’s weight — an average of 10-12 pounds. But as soon as you pull your neck forward and down, like when you’re staring at your smartphone, gravity takes its toll and the weight on your neck increases exponentially. At a 15-degree angle, the stress on your neck increases to 27 pounds; at 45 degrees, the weight increases to 49 pounds; and at a 60-degree angle, your neck’s holding the equivalent of 60 pounds.

Over time, this added strain compromises your spine and neck. The muscles in your neck may shorten, spinal discs can herniate, and nerves may become impinged.

With all of these negative effects, you may think you should throw your cell phone, tablet, and laptop away, but at Jochen Chiropractic, we have 10 hints and tips that can help you manage your tech neck.

Pay attention to your posture

Becoming aware of bad body alignment is the first step to improving tech neck. When you recognize you’re slouching over your laptop or you’ve been staring down at your phone for 30 minutes, fix it. Soon, you’ll begin to notice right away when bad posture sets in and remedy it immediately.

Don’t use your phone like a computer

If your task is going to take a long time, do it on a computer. From reading 5,000-word blog posts to sending a lengthy email, when it takes an extended period of time to do what you’re doing, consider doing it on the big screen.

Set time limits

Whether you’re browsing Etsy or crusing social media, it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re on your phone or tablet. To reduce the pain of tech neck, don’t stay with your head forward and down for more than 15-20 minutes. Set a timer to help keep track.

Take regular breaks

If you must stay on your device for longer than that, take three-minute breaks every 15 minutes. Stretch your neck, look around, and give your muscles and spine a moment to relax.

Elevate your device

To improve your tech neck, raise your device so you don’t have to bend your neck to see it. In a perfect world, we recommend having your screen at about shoulder height.

Use a headrest

If you find that you still struggle to not hang your head, sit in a chair with a headrest and make sure the back of your head doesn’t leave the rest. This forces you to keep your spine straight and your shoulders back, preventing the all-too-common cell phone slump.

Stay hydrated

Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to keep your body hydrated. The interior of your spinal discs are composed of mostly water, and every time you bend and twist, some of that water squeezes out. If you don’t stay hydrated, your spinal discs compress, causing pain and nerve impingement. While this can happen anywhere on the spine, if you’re dehydrated and spend a lot of time bent over your phone, it’s most likely to occur in the neck region.

Stretch regularly

Take time throughout the day to stretch your neck, chest, and shoulders. Work on opening up the area underneath your collarbone, moving the shoulder blades down your back, and imagine trying to lengthen your spine, stretching it to make space between each vertebra.

Get a massage

When tech neck results in muscle strain or tension in the neck, a therapeutic massage can do wonders, including loosening tight muscles.

Schedule with your chiropractor

If you’ve been trying to treat your tech neck at home and aren’t feeling much better, consider scheduling a chiropractic appointment. Your chiropractor can examine your spine and determine if you have more severe consequences from tech neck, such as nerve impingement or bulging discs.

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