By John Wilbert MS, PT
This month marks the 12 year anniversary of the 1st iPhone release date. As our dependence on our phones increases physical therapists and other health care providers fear that the ” tech neck ” diagnoses will also increase.
What is “Tech Neck?” The longer a person looks down at a device, the more the musculoskeletal system adapts to this new posture and makes it harder to correct. The muscles and connective tissue lengthen and shorten to perseverate the posture, compounding the issue.
One of our biggest concerns is children developing irreversible spinal changes due to poor posture while using handheld devices. There has been recent controversy over supposed “horns” forming on children’s skulls due to these stresses reported by The Washington Post. And while the research is still burgeoning and inconclusive, what will today’s childrens’ spines look like in 10-20 years from now? Is it possible they could develop a new form of scoliosis?
Children tend to be more flexible than adults and may not feel the strain of these poor habits until they are very difficult to correct. The example of this posture typically seen on the subway is when the person’s neck almost looks broken at
the shoulder level, hinging downward at a sharp angle. Holding the cell phone or tablet at chin or eye level will help stop neck and shoulder pain caused by poor posture.
More often adults are working remotely from their offices and they don’t get to use their ergonomically designed chair and desk.
Instead they are at home on the couch or in bed with lacking postural support and a handheld device held too low.
TIPS TO AVOID TECH NECK:
- To alleviate the strain on your arms, try resting your elbows near your rib cage if external armrest is available.
- When working make sure to maintain ergonomic posture while sitting at a desk or table.
- If you have to use a laptop or phone on the couch, use books or pillows to prop up your device up so that you don’t have to look down as much and make sure you have a pillow behind their low back.
- Take standing/walking breaks every 20-40 minutes to reset your postural muscles and stretch muscles that typically shorten while sitting.
- To help stick with this routine, there are apps for Apple and on Google Play and timers on most devices to remind them.
- Also, for more gadgets to help you in your postural goals, follow this link from Coworkaholic.
So while our dependence on technology will continue to expand, there are postural, ergonomic, and even technological fixes we can employ to avoid pain. If the above do not take care of all of your symptoms, you should seek out a well-recommended physical therapist. They can further guide you to a symptom-free, symbiotic relationship with your tech. For more tips on how to prevent Tech Neck” check out this great post from New York Presbyterian: Health Matters with Dr. K. Daniel Riew who writes: “ At just 45 degrees, your neck muscles are doing the work of lifting a 50 lb. bag of potatoes.”