How to Beat ‘Tech Neck’ — and Why It’s So Bad for Your Health
Tech neck is a term used to describe chronic neck pain caused by continuously straining the neck muscles while using technology—electronic devices like phones, tablets, and computers. Over time, tech neck can damage your muscles and misalign your spine, leading to poor posture, joint inflammation, pinched nerves, and herniated discs.
Tech neck—also called text neck—can result from looking down at your phone or other electronic devices for prolonged periods of time.
Your head is heavy, and your neck muscles are designed to hold it upright. Tilting the head down while working at a computer or scrolling through your phone strains your neck muscles. This can make your neck feel sore, painful, or stiff, and lead to posture problems.
Also see: 6 Ways to Get Rid of Neck and Back Pain
Effects of Tech Neck
Tech neck can lengthen the neck muscles and shorten your chest muscles, causing a hunched posture that puts more pressure on your neck and slumps your shoulders. This misalignment leads to shoulder and neck pain, soreness, and stiffness. Pressure on the spine can also pinch nerves that cause neck pain, lower back pain and numbness or tingling of the hands.
In addition, forward-slumping shoulders can pinch and rub the tendons of the rotator cuff—muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint. Over time, this irritation can lead to inflammation and shoulder pain, known as rotator cuff tendonitis. People with rotator cuff injuries are more at risk.
Tech neck can also cause issues beyond your neck and shoulders. Extra spinal pressure in your neck can lead to lower back pain, headaches, and herniated discs (slipped or bulging discs). Altered neck muscles and poor posture can also strain jaw joints and muscles, creating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain.
Also see: 7 Habits To Avoid Back Pain
How to Prevent Tech Neck
To help prevent tech neck, be mindful of your posture while on your phone, computer, or tablet. Hold your phone at eye level so you don't have to look down and bend your neck. It's easier to maintain this posture if you sit in a chair. It also helps to take frequent breaks from electronic devices where you stand up and move.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce the amount of stress you put on your neck and shoulder muscles. Follow these tips to reduce pain and increase your range of motion.
1. Take Plenty of Breaks.
You're more likely to develop tech neck if you work at a computer or use a mobile device for long stretches of time. To avoid neck pain and stiffness, take plenty of breaks while you're using your favorite device. Aim to take one break for every 30 minutes you spend on a computer, tablet or smartphone.
If you're at home, you can use the time to walk around the block, tidy up your desk or take care of a quick chore. At work, break time is ideal for catching up with a coworker or walking up and down the hall to stretch your legs.
2. Adjust the Height of Your Desk.
Tech neck typically occurs when you spend a lot of time tilting your head down to see your screen. If you develop pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders, you may benefit from adjusting the height of your desk. If your desk is at the right height, you won't have to look down every time you're reading an electronic document or writing something for other people to review.
When you adjust the height of your desk, aim for a height that puts the top line of your computer screen at or below eye level. You shouldn't have to tilt your head forward to see what's happening on the screen. If you do, keep adjusting your desk until your monitor is at the target height in order to avoid tech neck.
3. Maintain Good Posture.
The term "posture" refers to how you hold your body. Dynamic posture is how you hold your body while it's moving, and static posture refers to how you hold yourself when doing stationary activities, such as sleeping and sitting. Good posture is important when avoiding tech neck because it can keep you flexible, reduce stress on your muscles and make it easier for your body to digest food, breathe and perform other critical tasks.
Follow these tips to improve your static posture while sitting in front of a computer or using a mobile device:
- Keep your feet on the floor instead of crossing your legs.
- Get up and walk around as often as possible.
- If your feet don't touch the floor, use a footrest for extra support.
- Sit in a well-padded seat and keep your thighs parallel to the floor
- Keep your shoulders relaxed
- When using a computer, keep your elbows bent between 90 and 120 degrees. They should be close to your body, not extended away from your body.
- Use a lumbar support cushion to give your back extra support.
4. Invest in a Monitor Stand.
If you can't adjust the height of your desk, using a monitor stand may bring you relief from tech neck. Some of the most common types of monitor stands are monitor risers, mechanical risers and monitor holders. A monitor riser is one of the most inexpensive options, making it ideal for a home office. Risers aren't adjustable, but they lift up each monitor, eliminating the need to tilt your head forward to see the screen.
Mechanical risers are more expensive, but they're also adjustable. If you have several computer users in your household, you can purchase a mechanical riser and let everyone adjust it according to their personal needs when using a shared monitor. Monitor holders can be affixed to any surface, making it possible to adjust the height of the monitor and the horizontal position of the monitor.
5. Replace Your Office Chair.
If you have a worn-out office chair, your body may not be getting the support it needs to maintain good posture while you're working. The wrong office chair also makes it difficult to keep your feet flat on the floor while you work, putting extra stress on your body. It's easy to order a chair online, but you may want to visit a local retailer and try out a few chairs before you buy to ensure that your new chair is comfortable and provides the right amount of support.
Consider the following when choosing an office chair:
- Design: If you'll be using the chair at work, ask your company's safety specialist to recommend a chair with an ergonomic design. This type of design aims to increase comfort and reduce the risk of injuries associated with poor posture and repetitive motions.
- Materials: Look for a chair with a cushion that conforms to the shape of your back.
- Adjustable options: Make sure you can adjust the chair as needed to reduce muscle stress in your neck and shoulders. You should be able to move the chair up and down to make it easier to maintain good posture. If possible, get a chair that swivels, so you don't have to turn your head or twist your body every time you need to change positions.
6. Use a Tablet or Smartphone Holder.
If you have tech neck because of regular tablet or smartphone use, buy a device holder to eliminate the need to tilt your head. The simplest models sit on a desk or other flat surface, bringing your mobile device into your line of sight and making it easier to see what you're doing. Clip-on holders can be attached to the edge of a desk. They typically have flexible necks, making it possible to adjust them both vertically and horizontally.
7. Exercise Regularly.
When you sit up straight, your head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. Tilting your head forward increases its perceived weight on your neck, putting about 50 to 60 pounds of force on your neck muscles. If these muscles are weak due to a lack of exercise, this extra stress can lead to tech neck. Exercising regularly strengthens your neck muscles and makes them more flexible, which can ease your symptoms.
You should also aim to exercise your trapezius muscles, which start at the base of your neck and extend through your shoulders and into the middle of your back. Strengthening these muscles can prevent neck and shoulder pain caused by tech neck. If you have strong trapezius muscles, you may also find it easier to maintain good posture while working at the computer.
8. Get Physical Therapy.
Physical therapy has many benefits for people suffering from tech neck and other muscle problems, including reduced pain and improved mobility. If you haven't exercised in a while, a trained physical therapist can assess your needs and show you how to perform each exercise safely, reducing your risk of injury. During a course of physical therapy, you'll also work on improving your range of motion and addressing stiffness and soreness caused by tech neck.
9. See a Chiropractor.
Professional chiropractic care can help you improve your spine health, reducing or even eliminating the symptoms of tech neck. For best results, a chiropractic treatment plan should be customized to your specific needs. You may have a series of X-rays or an assessment by a trained chiropractor before beginning your treatment, ensuring that you receive exactly the care you need to address your concerns.
10. Try a Standing Desk.
Sitting for long periods of time is associated with an increased risk of several health conditions, including tech neck. In fact, living a sedentary lifestyle may be just as dangerous as smoking. Using a standing desk can help you alleviate stress on your neck muscles and reduce the risk of chronic disease, making it a great way to address tech neck at work or at home. If you have trouble standing for long periods of time, alternate sitting with standing throughout the day.
A standing desk should make it easy to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed while you work, especially if you adjust it so that your computer screen is always at eye level. When you use a standing desk, keep your knees relaxed instead of locking them. Keep your elbows parallel to the surface of the desk to prevent pain and other symptoms.
11. Relax Your Shoulders.
If you have a tendency to hunch your shoulders while you work, this can make the symptoms of tech neck even worse. Make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders and keep them pulled back toward your shoulder blades.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Do You Reduce a Tech Neck?
A: You can reduce the symptoms of tech neck by exercising regularly, seeking professional care and adjusting your work environment to eliminate the need to tilt your head forward when using a computer or mobile device.
Q: Is It Possible to Correct Tech Neck?
A: Yes, it's possible to correct tech neck if you're willing to change some of your habits. If you don't already exercise regularly, getting more physical activity can loosen up your muscles and reduce stress on your neck and shoulders. Adjusting your posture can keep your spine aligned correctly, easing pain and other symptoms of tech neck. You also need to be willing to adjust your work environment and work habits to eliminate the need to look down when using your favorite devices.
Q: Does Heat Help Tech Neck?
A: If you have stiffness caused by tech neck, the Cleveland Clinic recommends applying ice for the first 48 to 72 hours and then switching to heat. Applying heat to the affected area can ease pain and stiffness. You can use a heating pad, take a hot shower or soak a washcloth in hot water and then apply it to your neck.
If you currently have chronic neck and shoulder pain caused by frequent computer use or the regular use of mobile devices, visit or call the Closest Emergency Room for the medical help. We have experienced physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists on staff to help you recover from tech neck and live a pain-free life.
We have ER locations across the DFW metroplex that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.
We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.