In 2018, the average person over 18 years in the United States spent about three hours a day on their phones. And kids aged 8–17 spend almost eight hours checking their texts, games, and social media. For most kids, teens, and adults, that means anywhere from 3–8 hours with their heads tilted in a downward position that strains their necks and slouches their shoulders.
The orthopaedic spine surgeons and pain management specialists at The Spine Center at the Bone and Joint Clinic of Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge, Walker, and Prairieville, Louisiana, know that tech neck isn’t just a clever name. It’s a real condition that serves as a precursor to neck pain and other types of pain conditions. Here’s why.
Your head gets heavy
When you sit up straight and tall — as Mom and Dad always advised you to do — your head weighs about 10–12 pounds (if you’re average). But with each increase in the forward tilt of your head, the stress on your neck increases. If you bend your neck by just 45 degrees to check on the latest headline, emoji text, or email, your head now “weighs” about 50 pounds, and by 60 degrees, you’re holding 60 pounds.
Your neck is thin
Sixty pounds is a lot to lift and hold, no matter what body part you’re using, but your neck is less equipped than your biceps to carry that kind of load. Your cervical spine (i.e., the portion that runs through your neck), is actually the slenderest part of your spine. Adding 50–60 pounds of pressure to your cervical spine wears out and strains all of the tissues and structures, including:
- Facet joints
- Vertebral discs
Because your heavy head stresses so many structures in your neck, the pain can affect or radiate to other areas.
Tech neck wreaks havoc
Subjecting your cervical spine to heavy loads lengthens and weakens both your neck and shoulder muscles. Over time, your tech neck might cause:
- Slipped discs
- Pinched nerves
- Neck strains and sprains
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Tingling or numb hands
- Distortions in your spine
Extreme tech neck causes such poor posture that you could even develop breathing problems.
Reverse your tech neck
When you become aware of how you use your phone and other devices, you can create new habits that keep your neck safe and either prevent or alleviate tech neck and its complications. Recommended habits include:
- Keep your devices at eye level
- Look up from devices every five minutes
- Stretch and walk around every half hour
- Perform stretching and strengthening exercises daily
You can also benefit by redesigning your office to be more ergonomically efficient.
Get help for chronic neck pain
Whether you’ve been able to change your habits or not, if you suffer from neck pain, treating it sooner rather than later gives you relief and prevents complications such as slipped discs and pinched nerves. Your specialist at The Spine Center at the Bone and Joint Clinic of Baton Rouge conducts a thorough physical examination and may order X-rays or other imaging studies to pinpoint all of the factors involved in your neck pain. Depending on your individual case and the severity of your pain, therapies might include: