Are you having neck pain, upper back pain, mid back pain, shoulder pain, pain in the back of your head, headaches, sore muscles, or muscle spasms? What if you find out that the cause of your problems is muscle strain and misalignment of joints from the use of digital devices like your laptop, desktop and cellphone to name a few?
What is Tech Neck?
Did you know that an average head weighs about 12-15 lbs when you look straight ahead and when looking down, like when you look at your cell phone, it puts about 60 lbs of pressure on the structures that were designed to stand about 12-15 lbs? Is it then fair to say that there is a rapid deterioration of these structures? Well, this is what Tech Neck is. A messed up neck and its associated issues as a result of using digital devices. The immediate understanding of issues associated with Tech Neck is muscle tension, pain, even headaches but what if we go a step further to see what the destruction of these vertebrae, the discs between them, and the nerves that come out in between each 2 vertebra does to our health?
Why is Tech Neck such a big deal?
Tech neck can lead to issues like muscle tension, headaches, poor posture, restlessness, lack of attention and focus, sleep interference, and mood changes. With poor posture comes misalignment of joints and the impact of that on nerves, lower back pain, neck pain, pain between shoulder blades and more. In a blog I wrote, I explain the details of how it can lead to Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis which was previously thought to be an elderly issue but now is proven to impact younger people as well. Let me explain why Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease does not age discriminate! When you have a wooden door that is properly aligned on its hinges on its frame, it will not show signs of wear. Several years from now, the door will simply look old from the aged wood. If you take a wood door that sits unevenly on the frame, it will be a short time before it shows signs of wear where it unevenly scrapped the door frame. Your joints are the same way! When a joint is misaligned, there is wear and tear, the body produces calcifications called osteophytes in an attempt to stabilize the area; these calcifications limit the movement within the joint and can appear in the holes called foramen where the nerves exit the spine. What do you think happens if those nerves are irritated? Is it reasonable to say that the end organ, the end destination of the specific nerve, is going to be affected? You see how with Tech neck, you are already putting a strain on your muscles, and setting yourself up for misalignment, stress on the joints of your neck and back where spinal nerves exit? You see how the health and performance of those nerves impact how your body communicates to the brain and receives the order from the brain to do their task? You see how you set yourself up for failure in overall health? It is important to note that this decline is at such a slow level that you won’t know it is happening until pain comes. Pain does not come with every decline in health; there is no pain with high blood pressure and diabetes for example and yet, they are both examples of the unhealthy state of being!
Why Is Looking Down Causing Tech Neck?
Your head is the roughly the weight of a bowling ball. If you sit your bent elbow on a table while holding a bowling ball directly above your elbow, you can hold it there for a long time without problems. Why is this? In this position, you are using your bones to hold up the majority of the weight of the bowling ball because the weight is balanced over the bones. Your muscles are just doing work to stabilize your joint in this position. However, if you straighten your arm a little, the weight of the bowling ball is no longer balanced over the bones in your arm. This causes the muscles in your arm to have to step up and start working to hold up the bowling ball and keep your arm from falling. The muscles will become strained and fatigued quickly. You will not be able to hold the bowling ball in this position for very long at all and you will start to have pain. This is the same with your head and neck. When your head is properly balanced and aligned on your neck, the bones in your neck will support your head and your upper back and your neck muscles will just need to help stabilize the joints. When you start looking down at your electronics, your head becomes off-balanced and your muscles must start holding on for dear life to keep your head from falling. The farther forward your head is, the more force your neck muscles have to hold up your head.
What Can I Do to Prevent Tech Neck?
With tech neck, prevention is key. No one wants to have headaches, neck, or back pain. So, let us explore some lifestyle changes that can help you prevent this problem.
An important thing to start is to take micro-breaks from looking down and working on your electronics. These micro breaks give your muscles a much-needed rest from being overworked while they struggle to hold up your head.
Raise your screens to eye level! This one can be vital. If you are sitting at a desk, try putting books or a stand to raise your computer screen to eye level. If you are working or playing on tablets or phones, try putting them on a stand and use a wireless or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. There are many different stand designs that you can purchase online to meet your needs. The most important aspect of the stand is that it brings your phone or tablet to eye level. The same problem can also occur when you are reading your soft or hardcover books, including textbooks. You can place your books on a book stand that can prop the books up and bring them to eye level to help you prevent muscle and joint pain. Check out these tips to set your workplace properly to avoid deteriorating your spine and body!
What can I do to treat Tech neck?
Unfortunately, I treat patients with issues related to Tech neck daily. The number one point I bring to their attention is the importance of prevention. My YouTube channel is packed with educational videos related to issues related to Tech neck. Also, the tips to set up your workplace is an absolute must when it comes to preventing Tech neck.
Reviewing the use of a pillow to better support the neck at night is very important in both prevention and treatment of Tech neck. In the video below, you will learn what to watch out for when it comes to sleeping at night, supporting the neck and providing relief to the spine.
After a thorough examination of the spine, locating the misaligned vertebrae is key. While most Chiropractic adjustments are the typical twisting of the back and neck (Manual technique) and getting the ‘cracking’ noise, not every adjustment is the manual or Diversified adjustment. You can learn about a few different techniques that I use here.
A great addition to the Chiropractic adjustment is ART or Active Release Technique, a form of functional rehab. which is helpful when treating patients suffering from tech neck. Active Release Technique is used to treat the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that have learned to work out of sync to accommodate the body in performing the needed task. You see, your brain is on a mission to provide what you wish for it to perform. If it has to shift the task to another muscle whose main job in NOT doing the task at hand, it will!!! Talking about unconditional love here!!!
In this day and age, the majority of people are on their technical devices for several hours a day. While they are on their devices and looking down, they tend to sit with poor posture. This poor posture must be addressed to fully fix Tech neck. Almost all patients with neck, head, or back pain, have struggled with pain for a long time. Meanwhile, their body typically shifts away or toward the site of pain depending on what the body needs to do to balance and help ease the pain. With the brain-based neurology and postural assessment I do at the initial exam, I am able to map out the weakened parts of the brain when it comes to posture. By activating those parts with proper exercises, you are then able to complete the brain-body pathway and connection when it comes to posture. This is how you can truly improve your posture and increase your chances of better health. You can learn more about Brain-based Neurology and Posture which is the pivotal part of my comprehensive exams.
Stretching in the neck muscles, especially the ones in the back of the head is extremely important. These are the muscles that are continuously being pulled when sitting behind the desk or using digital devices. They are therefore weak and unable to keep the head in the position it needs to be. Check out the videos in this Neck Playlist to learn the best way to stretch your neck muscles and strengthen others.
While prevention is the key to a healthier life, treating Tech neck is not impossible. Taking micro-breaks, limiting the use of digital devices and proper workplace is the key to keep in mind.
Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to live it.