Tech neck, text neck — it doesn’t matter what you call it — when using tech devices causes a literal pain in your neck. While it might seem like a minor inconvenience when you first experience it, tech neck can lead to serious complications if left untreated. You could see herniated disks and nerve compression in time due to the long-term effects of poor posture and ergonomics.
It’s about the load
Your head weighs about 10-12 pounds, and that’s the weight that your spine supports when you’re sitting or standing in proper posture with your head centered over your body. If you carry a bowling ball of similar weight close to your chest, for example, you can bear its weight comfortably for a significant length of time.
Hold the same bowling ball at arm’s length, though, and your endurance is much shorter, since this position shifts your center of gravity and changes the way your body distributes forces associated with the ball’s weight.
The same thing happens when you bend your neck forward to view a tablet, smartphone, or other device. For short periods of time, there’s little effect. But bending your neck just 15 degrees forward more than doubles the load on the joints of your spine. With your neck at a 45-degree angle, the load is over four times as heavy.
The effects of tech neck
The most obvious strain is on the bones and soft tissue of your neck. Naturally arranged in a gentle S shape, your spine curves from your shoulders to the base of your skull. Using tech gadgets straightens this curvature. It’s part of the normal range of movement of your head, but when you hold this forward posture for long periods of time, muscles tighten, spinal discs are damaged, and nerves become compressed.
Improper posture changes the size of the channels through which nerves pass. This makes compression and irritation more likely, and it causes pain from your neck, down your arms and to your fingers. Tears in the outer shell of spinal discs may lead to ruptures that can also compress nerves as the inner tissue of a disc pushes outward.
It’s not all about mobile technology either. Sitting at a desk working at a computer for long hours carries similar risks. Poor posture in this case may come from chairs, keyboards, or monitors on the wrong levels. Even with the best ergonomic designs, tech neck is still an issue if you maintain the same posture for extended periods.
The importance of movement
Your body is designed to move, not to hold fixed positions for hours. The distractions of tech devices, whether for entertainment or productivity can override your urge to shift posture frequently. The first step in minimizing the effects of tech neck is to break the stasis. Change your habits to include frequent shifts and stretches.
If you’ve already developed chronic pain due to tech neck, changing habits remains important, and you should consider a visit to Vulcan Pain Management. Board-certified pain management specialist Victor Mendoza, MD, specializes in the compassionate treatment of chronic pain.
Call our closest office or use the online appointment request tool. It’s possible to live pain-free. Book your consultation today.