This is not a joke. “Tech neck” is really now a medical condition.
It is the colloquial descriptor of rings of wrinkles that are forming about the necks of some national wellness clinicians’ patients. The skin furrow is caused by people spending much of their lives with their necks down as they catch up on their social media stream, read email or watch streaming content.
It is a sign of aging and even plastic surgeons are beginning to see more clients coming in for fixes to newly developed double chins and neck wrinkles created by Tech Neck.
But it’s not even a new condition. Imagine, there is such a thing as a Tech Neck Institute. Indeed!
Back in 2011, doctors and chiropractors warned that “text neck” another term for the condition, was causing people constantly hunched over their mobile gadgets to develop neck strain, headaches and pain in the shoulders and, sometimes, in arms and hands. This unnatural curving of the body to type, text, watch videos and play games could cause debilitating pain that lasts a lifetime, they warned.
“We learned the longer people use mobile devices, cell phones, PDAs — all the things we use to communicate with that have little keyboards — the more they have pain in their necks, shoulders and thumbs,” said University of Waterloo applied sciences professor Richard Wells, who published a study in the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Applied Ergonomics about the effects of technology on our bodies and conducted what is believed to be the world’s first research study on text neck.
He found that among 140 students who participated in an online survey, twice as many experienced pain in their shoulders, neck and other areas when they used their devices three hours or more a day compared to those who used their devices for less time.
But there’s hope for you yet if you haven’t started seeing them on your neck, as Dr. Jeff Manning at Manning Wellness Clinic, recently advised:
• Limit the amount of time and frequency that you use your device: If you have to use it for an extended period of time, take breaks. Rule of thumb: Take a 5-minute break for every 15 minutes you use your device, and don’t type for more than 3 minutes straight. Get up and walk around to stretch your muscles. One simple exercise is to tilt your head to one side (ear to shoulder) then to the other side, back to neutral, turn to look all the way to the right, then left. Back to neutral, then lean head back and back to neutral. Do all without raising shoulders. Don’t stretch forward…this only accentuates the poor posture your trying to avoid. Do it slowly, without straining. Repeat.
• Be aware of your posture: Pay attention to how you hold your device. Try to keep your wrists straight and upright. Loosen your grip when possible. Alternate the fingers you use to type; if you most often use your thumbs, try to switch to your index finger as it allows you to keep the hands more relaxed.
• Use a tablet holder: There are many on the market, but all have the common goal of securing the tablet at a height that is designed to reduce your need to keep your head bent down and forward. Keeping your device at eye-level will help to reduce neck pain and possible damage. It can also prevent “tech-neck” or head-forward posture.