Last Updated: August 9, 2020
There is a big chance you are reading this while slouching over your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Your head is bent over, the back curved, and your arms are crooked on either side of your body. You are probably feeling some neck pain and discomfort at the back and shoulders. The point is, you are going through what is called tech neck or text neck. The concept originates from our texting habits, from way back in the days.
Of course, tech-neck is now broader than only texting. It includes all digital interactions we have with technology screens and gaming consoles. These range from reading emails, watching videos, swiping through social media apps, to hunching over our joysticks.
The habit is also not limited to adults only. It is synonymous with anyone that has embraced and taken technology use to the next level. On top of this list are children.
What is Tech Neck Anyway?
Tech neck is a phrase championed by Dr. Dean L. Fishman to address the stress, injury and alteration we expose our necks, backs and posture to.
From a broad perspective, tech neck refers to the forward hunching of the head and shoulders (forward head posture) in order to view content on our laptops and smartphone screens. Ultimately, the upper back is curved forward and strained to carry the now excess weight of the head and shoulders.
Here is how Fishman 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.
Whereas the habit happens involuntarily and often ignored it should concern us and our children.
The Genesis of Trouble in Tech Paradise!
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 weight of the head which is now heavier, weighing more than the normal 10 pounds – (5kgs)
According to Premier Orthopedics,
When evenly balanced over your shoulders, the human head on average weighs between 10 and 12 lbs(5kgs). But with just a 15 degree tilt forward, the weight on the spine spikes up to 27 lbs(12kgs). Another 15 degrees forward and it weighs 40 pounds (18kgs) on the spine, and at 60 degrees (where the chin is nearly touching the chest) this weight goes all the way up 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. The weight leads to wear and tear of the discs that separate the vertebra and increase the likelihood of the user developing arthritis and herniated discs.
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.
The Generation of Hunchbacks
Here’s is why tech neck is bad for us, and why it is turning us into a generation of hunchbacks:
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 by causing 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 most likely becomes permanent.
Given that children adopt technology early in life and therefore are exposed to tech necks just as early, it is obvious the side effects associated with bad posture will stay with them all their lives. They will most likely walk around with hunched backs, and will appear shorter than their 20th-century counterparts who did not have to worship smartphones!
Other Concerns with Tech Neck
Besides bad posture, tech neck is known to cause:
What We Can All Do
Since the habit is now second nature and in-sync with life in the 21century, we can only seek relevant solutions:
- 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.
- 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.