The Dangers of Tech Neck

When neck pain strikes, you just want it to go away. But how can you solve your pain if you don’t know the root cause?

Whether you call it tech neck or text neck, using your favorite tech gadgets can cause pain in your neck. And, even though it may seem like a minor inconvenience when you first experience it, tech neck can cause serious complications without treatment. You can develop nerve compression and herniated disks over time, all from the long-term effects of your poor posture and ergonomics.

It’s all about balance

Your head weighs between 10-12 pounds. That’s also how much weight your spine supports when you practice good posture while sitting or standing. In this posture, your head should be centered in a neutral position over your body. 

Now think of a bowling ball. If you hold a 10-12 pound bowling ball close to your chest, you could comfortably bear its weight for a long period. When you hold the same bowling ball at arm’s length, however, your endurance grows much shorter. That’s because this position shifts your center of gravity. It also changes how your body distributes the forces associated with the bowling ball’s weight.

The same thing happens if you bend your neck forward to view a smartphone or tablet. When you do it for short periods, there’s little overall effect on your body. But, bending your neck forward as little as 15 degrees more than doubles the load on your spine. And, when your neck bends at a 45-degree angle, the load is more than four times as heavy.

The problem with tech neck

The most obvious complication of tech neck is a strain on the bones and the soft tissue of your neck. 

Your spine naturally curves from your shoulders to the base of your skull in a gentle S-shape. But, using tech devices straightens this curvature. While bending your neck forward to look at a gadget is part of the normal range of movement for your spine, holding your head in this forward posture for long periods isn’t. Over time, it causes muscles in the area to tighten, nerves to become compressed, and spinal disc damage.

Having improper posture can also change the size of the channels in your spine where nerves pass. These changes make nerve compression and irritation more likely, which can lead to radiating pain from your neck, along your arms, and into your fingers. Tears in the outer shell of your spinal discs can also rupture — known as herniated discs — compressing nerves as the inner tissue of a disc bulges outward.

And mobile technology isn’t the only cause of tech neck either. Sitting at a desk and working at a computer for extended periods carries similar risks. Practicing poor posture in this way can come from how you sit in your chair, use your keyboards, or from having a computer monitor at the wrong level. But, even with the best ergonomics, tech neck can still be an issue if you sit in the same posture for long periods.

The importance of moving your body

Your body wasn’t made to stay in the same fixed position for hours at a time. Using tech devices, whether for entertainment or productivity, creates a distraction, which overrides your natural urge to shift posture frequently. The first step in reducing the effects of tech neck is to disrupt your inactivity. Make changes in your habits that include stretches and frequent movement.

If you already have chronic pain due to tech neck, changing habits remain important, and you should also consider a visit to Spinal Diagnostics. As the only pain practice in Tualatin, Newberg, and Portland, Oregon, that specializes in spinal and neuropathic pain, you can find compassionate treatment and relief for your tech neck symptoms. 

Call one of our convenient locations or use the online tool to request an appointment. You can live pain-free. Book your consultation today.  

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