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Body Check: What To Know About Tech Neck

You’re reading this from a screen right now, either from your phone or a computer screen. Pause. What is your neck doing? Is your head looking down at a device or are you reaching your head a little too forward to read your screen? Pay attention to your neck, your shoulders and your head – what do you feel?

What’s the Angle?

Tech neck is a term that describes chronic pain around the neck or shoulders that can been caused by maintaining poor posture whilst spending so many hours at a screen. Let’s do some math.

We spend about 8 hours a day, 5 days a week sitting at a desk looking into our screens, which are not always set at eye level. Does your phone interrupt you with a shameful notification of your average screen time weekly? Mine does. And my stomach lurches at the amount of time it tells me I spend on it… It must be lying. How do I get anything else done in the day?

Studies have shown that the posture and position of the head, especially over prolonged periods of time can lead issues involving the spine and muscular issues around the neck and shoulders. So, here are more numbers.  When our head are in a neutral position, we are placing approximately 5kg of weight on our spines. When we increase the degree of neck flexion, we also increase the amount of weight we bear on our spine.

Neutral Position 15° flex 30° flex 45° flex 60° flex
5kg weight 12kg weight 18kg weight 22kg weight 27kg weight

For context, things that weigh between 22-27kg include:

  • An average 8-9 year old boy
  • A male British Bulldog
  • A 50-inch flat screen TV
  • 3 full size watermelons

Imagine wearing one of those as a neck scarf.

What’s the Damage?

Tech neck can cause a range of symptoms like:

  • Strained neck
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation of muscle and tissues around the neck and shoulders
  • Cervical spine damage

What’s the Remedy?

Firstly, be aware. Make sure your work station is supports your body in a neutral position. An ideal distance for your screen to be away from your eyes is about arm’s length. If you find yourself bowing forward to see your screen better, adjust your zoom. If your screen is too low, make use of your forgotten books and stack them to get the right height.

Notice your neck and how it feels when you are looking into your device – even while shooting off a quick text or looking for the latest episode of your favorite podcast on Spotify. You want to make sure your screen is at eye level. A a neutral spine is when your ears are in line with your shoulders.

Take regular screen breaks. Adjust your position. Move your body. Do neck rolls.

Like everything, being mindful is key. Maintaining an awareness of your body, what you are doing, and sensations you are feeling will let you know to shift, change, get comfortable. And now that you know you might be carrying around a phantom small child around your neck, you might like to shake that off pretty quickly!

Bernadette Liparota

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