Tech neck is not necessarily a medical term. It is a tech habit that has turned many of us into a generation of hunchbacks as we move deep into the 21st century!
To illustrate, you are probably reading this article with your head bent over, the back curved, and your arms crooked on either side of your body.
As a result, you are probably experiencing mild pain in the neck, shoulders, or upper back. This is especially true if you have been slouching over your smartphone for hours.
What you are going through is what we loosely call tech neck. The concept originates from our texting habits, from way back in the day. Of course, the tech-neck syndrome is now broader than only texting. It has expanded to labels such as text neck, nerd neck, and even scholar’s neck!
It describes our body posture as we work with technology screens and gaming consoles. These range from reading emails, watching videos, swiping through social media apps, playing video games, and attending to scholarly work.
The habit is synonymous with anyone that has embraced technology to the next level, with children topping this absurd list.
The meaning, symptoms & impact of tech neck …
… the meaning
Tech neck is a phrase championed by Dr. Dean L. Fishman to address the stress, injury, and alterations we expose our necks, backs, and posture to, due to technology indulgence.
This is how he defines it:
overuse syndrome involving the head, neck, and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking in a forward and downward position at any handheld mobile device, i.e., mobile phone, video game unit, computer, mp3 player, e-reader.Definition of Text Neck
From a broad perspective, tech neck refers to the forward hunching of the head and shoulders (forward head posture) to view content on our laptop and smartphone screens.
Ultimately, the upper back is curved forward while carrying the now excess weight of the head and shoulders.
… the symptoms of tech neck
Besides bad posture, tech neck is known to cause:
- pain when flexing the neck
- general pain in the neck, spine, shoulders, and upper back
- indigestion such as heartburn, acid reflux, and incontinence
- soreness inside the neck
- poor blood circulation
- the eyes strain to see
- the thumbs in the hand feel numb and sensitive
- reduced mobility
… the impact!
The average user spends upwards of 3 hours a day using the smartphone, and even more, for those that work on their computers all day.
We now spend more time swiping through apps than making voice calls – which is a good thing but is again bad when done to extremes.
When these hours are spent with the head and back hunched over, something is bound to give way. The forwards head posture means the neck and spine are forced to carry the heavy head which now weighs more than the recommended 10 pounds – (5kgs).
With an additional tilt of only 15 degrees, the weight on the spine increases to 12kgs, and up to 18kgs with a further tilt of 15 degrees. At 60 degrees (where the chin is nearly touching the chest), this weight goes upwards to 60 pounds (27kgs).
The weight will definitely lead to muscle ache, at the end of the day, and will only get worse with time.
Continued pressure on the spine may lead to pain in the lower back, which is extended to the knee, and ultimately the ankle.
Ultimately, we may be forced to seek tech neck treatment or contend with increasing cases of technology hunchbacks.
Here’s why tech neck is turning us into a generation of hunchbacks:
The primary job of the neck is to support and ensure the head is stable.
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.westsidepain
Our extended use of the smartphone while curving the back affects our body postures in the short and long run. The habit leads to structural changes to the body because it causes the spinal code to pull out of alignment.
Conditioning the muscles in the neck, chest, and back to lean forward will force the upper back and head to lean forward. When this imbalance continues for years, the posture likely becomes permanent.
Given that children adopt technology early in life and therefore are exposed to tech neck just as early, it is obvious the side effects associated with bad posture will stay with them all their lives.
They will likely walk around with hunched backs, and appear shorter than their 20th century counterparts, who did not have to worship smartphones!
What we should be doing
Since the habit is now second nature and in sync with life in the 21century, we can only find ways to protect our health from radiation and unknown dangers, and seek healthy relevant solutions listed below:
- Be active. Get up and move around at regular intervals.
- Don’t hold any body part in a sustained position. Straighten elbows, wrists, and knees; roll your neck and shoulders. And don’t hunch.
- Look up and around—and away from your screens every other few minutes.
- 90-degrees is the right angle. Hips and knees should not hold obtuse or acute angle positions.
- Size it up. Match your keyboard size to your body size to avoid stress.
- Engage your core muscles. They are there for support.
- Do strength and flexibility exercises daily.
- Pay attention to your sleeping posture. On your side or back with a support pillow is best.
- Stretch. And stretch again. Do it regularly throughout the day.
- Do strength, flexibility, and cardio exercise daily.
- Seek medical help of physical therapy when you experience pains due to tech neck.
- You may actually require surgical treatment if your pains become unbearable.