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Is Your Poor Posture Causing Tech Neck?

May 08, 2024

If you’re looking down reading this, it might be time to learn about tech neck.

“We’re living digital lives and spending a lot of time on screens,” says Joel Bauman, MD, the Central Region chief of neurosurgery at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. “We’re seeing tech neck every day.”

Even though it’s common, Dr. Bauman shares why this growing phenomenon is a big deal.

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It all starts with poor posture.

If you have bad posture, you’re probably not alone.

“In a perfect world, our head should be above our shoulders and our shoulders above our hips,” explains Dr. Bauman.

Instead, technology devices and screens make us look down and hunch forward.

This poor posture can lead to tech neck, a forward and bent head position. Straining our neck, shoulders and arm muscles can hurt our neck and lower back.

You’re at higher risk of tech neck if you fall in these 3 groups.

While we’re all at risk of developing tech neck, Dr. Bauman identifies three groups where extra awareness helps.

  1. Teenagers: “This group is the most device dependent. They also have less developed neck and upper body musculature. Since they are still forming postural habits, education is key.”
  2. Older adults: “Now spending more time on devices than ever before, this group may experience stiffer joints, arthritis and not enough muscle elasticity to recover from overuse injury.”
  3. Professionals: “If you spend most of your time seated at a computer, you’re at increased risk for tech neck.”

> Related: Have a Desk Job? Don’t Ignore These Signs of Hand or Wrist Injury

Symptoms of tech neck you should watch for.

You may have tech neck if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Neck stiffness.
  • Spasms.
  • Sore, aching muscles along the back of the upper shoulders, neck and head.

If tech neck is severe, you may experience:

  • Numbness or tingling.
  • Arm pain from a disc in the neck bulging and pressing on the nerves.

“Tech neck can reduce the natural ability of the neck to move in all positions,” explains Dr. Bauman. “It can also progress from daily, device-related strain to soreness that interferes with other activities, including sleep.”

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6 ways to prevent tech neck.

Dr. Bauman shares simple ways to prevent (or improve) your tech neck:

  1. Maintain a good posture.
  2. Keep your phone at eye level when looking at the screen.
  3. Don’t use your phone while walking.
  4. Take frequent breaks from your computer every 30 minutes.
  5. Stretch your neck through its full range of motion throughout the day.
  6. Sit slightly reclined in your chair with your head back to avoid leaning and hunching at the computer screen and relax your shoulders.

When to see a doctor.

“Human bodies evolved to be upright and active, using our arms in dynamic positions. Holding screens and sitting in front of computers is not what our bodies are meant to do,” says Dr. Bauman.

These bad postures and positions can harm our neck over time, and seeing a doctor is a good idea for diagnosis – especially if symptoms are persistent or get worse.

“Remember that bending your neck 45 degrees to look down while holding a phone is equal to holding up 50 pounds of head weight with your neck,” says Dr. Bauman. “It really adds up, so protect yourself.”