There’s a good chance that as you’re reading this article, your head is tilted down, flipping through magazine pages or scrolling through your phone.
Chances are, the position you’re currently in is causing unnecessary stress on your neck, back, shoulders and posture in general. It’s a modern physiological effect that doctors are referring to as “tech neck”—and as smartphone use continues to increase, the prevalence of pain and discomfort in our bodies does as well.
Your head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds, on average. However, when it’s flexed forward it becomes a leveraged 50–60 pounds of pressure on our necks, which can’t handle that kind of weight for very long.
Tech neck side effects include neck pain, back pain, headaches and pain behind the eyes. To top it off, when you sit with rounded shoulders and a flexed neck, you hinder your ability to take deep breaths, causing your oxygen and energy levels to drop.
Think you’ve beaten tech neck? Check for yourself. One of the most prominent signs of tech neck is a deeper wrinkle or two along the neck where the bend happens. Usually it’s more pronounced than other wrinkles on the face or neck and it doesn’t fade quickly when you straighten your neck.
Five Ways to Prevent Tech Neck
1. Set time limits
Use a timer to remind yourself to get up and move around. According to Chiropractic Economics, the easiest way to treat tech neck is to prevent it all together by taking many breaks.
2. Adjust your electronics
Use a phone dock or tablet holder. A study by Cordyon Physiotherapy on technology and posture suggests your device should always be at eye level, your elbows near your waist and to mainly use your index finger on touch screens.
3. Switch up your office
SpineHealth.com recommends a firm chair with head support and to keep your shoulders and head in contact with the chair at all times. Also consider installing a variable height desk and switch between sitting and standing throughout the day.
4. Sleep on your back
According to a study by the University of Rochester, laying on your back with a small pillow under your knees while you sleep is proven to improve posture. The study also concluded sleeping on your stomach can create more stress on your back and sleeping on your side can pull your spine out of alignment over time.
5. Stretch and Strengthen
Neck extensions, side neck stretches, chin tucks, chest lifts, et cetera. Men’s Health suggests stretching and tending to your core muscles every day to prevent slouching while working.