Smartphone use has skyrocketed over the past decade, and today, nearly 300 million smartphones are hard at work in the United States. About 85% of American adults use smartphones, and last year alone, about 150 million new smartphones were ordered by consumers eager to keep up to date with the latest technology.
That’s a lot of people using smartphones — and a lot of people spending hours with their heads inclined to view their screens or tilted to one side to balance their phones while multitasking. All that bending and tilting means one thing: sore necks.
Technology-related neck pain is so common that it’s earned its own nickname: tech neck. While phones are a major culprit, they’re not the only cause of tech neck: It can happen when you use a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer for long periods.
And though the name sounds cute, the fact is, tech neck symptoms are downright painful. Without treatment, those annoying symptoms can turn into significant discomfort in your neck, along with chronic headaches and other symptoms.
The good news: There is help for tech neck. At Vulcan Pain Management, Victor Mendoza, MD, and his team offer many options to help patients in Birmingham, Alabama, feel better. If your phone (or laptop or tablet) is taking a toll on your neck, here are five tips that could help.
1. Stretch your neck (but be gentle)
Try gently rolling your neck in a circular motion clockwise, then counterclockwise. Lower your head to one shoulder, then to the other. These exercises can be done anywhere — even while sitting at your desk. And they both help to loosen up your neck muscles and improve circulation to the area. You can find additional exercises here.
2. Take plenty of breaks
This one is essential, but it’s the tip many people hesitate to implement — often because we tend to be a little too attached to our technology. Still, working in frequent breaks — say every 15-20 minutes or so — gives your neck muscles a much-needed break. Set a timer or download an app to remind you to take a break (and maybe slip in a few stretches).
3. Consider your workspace
If your chair is falling apart or your monitor is located much lower than your eyes, you’re more likely to strain your neck at work. Try raising your monitor, so it’s lined up with your field of view, and invest in a chair with a headrest and good lumbar support. If you can, lean back slightly while working and rest your head on your chair’s headrest for more support.
4. Use hot and cold therapy
For sore muscles, try alternating an ice pack with a heating pad — each for about 15-20 minutes. The ice helps reduce inflammation in your neck muscles, while heat increases circulation to the area.
5. Get some exercise
Neck exercises are great but don’t neglect the rest of your body. Regular aerobic exercise increases circulation to your neck, delivering oxygen and nutrients while removing toxins associated with inflammation. Core-strengthening exercises give your back and spine added support to keep your posture in check.
Don’t ignore your neck pain
Tech neck might not seem like a big deal, but chronic neck pain can cause nerve irritation over time, with symptoms that radiate into your back, shoulders, head, and arms. Without medical treatment, you can develop permanent nerve damage in your neck.
If you have tech neck, trying these “home remedies” is a good first step. But if your pain doesn’t go away, if it worsens, or if you develop radiating symptoms, it’s time to schedule an office visit.
To learn more about tech neck prevention and treatment and how Dr. Mendoza can relieve your chronic neck pain, call 205-258-7246 or book an appointment online at Vulcan Pain Management today.