Help for ‘tech neck’
The act of holding your head flexed forward while looking down at your electronic devices – phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. – places your cervical spine in a tenuous position. Originally termed “text neck,” the new term “tech neck” highlights the fact that it’s not just texting that can injure one’s neck but all screen time. Over long periods of time, maintaining this head-forward posture can lead to a variety of symptoms in the head, neck, shoulders and upper back.
Your head weighs approximately 12 pounds. If you spend a significant amount of time slumped over, the forces on your cervical spine are substantial. According to recent research, when you bend your head forward at 15 degrees, its weight effectively increases from 12 pounds to 27 pounds. At 45 degrees, your head exerts 49 pounds of force, and at 60 degrees, 60 pounds – this is like carrying an eight-year-old child around on your neck for several hours per day!
The purpose of the cervical spine is to contain and protect the spinal cord, to support the skull, and to enable diverse head movements (rotation side to side, bending forward, backward, and sideways). With proper posture, the weight of the head is held directly above the spine’s center of gravity. In a forward head position, where the head is held ahead of the center of gravity, stress on the cervical spine results. Long-term consequences may include pain, inflammation, muscle strain and spasm, disc herniation, arthritis, pinched nerves and loss of the cervical curve.
Suggestions to counteract “tech neck” are as follows. First, hold your electronic device in front of you instead of bending your head down. Second, use a tablet holder, bookstand and/or proper computer ergonomics to prevent forward head posture while working or studying. Third, set time limits for the amount of time and frequency that you use your devices. Fourth, use a chair with a headrest to allow your head to rest while holding your device in front of you. Fifth, maintain spinal and core fitness through practices such as yoga, pilates and/or weight training to keep supportive spinal muscles strong. Finally, undergo an examination with a chiropractor specializing in the cervical spine to determine whether a cervical injury is contributing to neck symptoms.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been helping patients with cervical problems for the past five years on Maui. For more information, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.