As I spend my days working on clients who sit at desks all day, I see a lot of people suffering from something called tech neck. Tech neck is caused by angling your head down too much to look at your computer screen, tablet, phone, or other electronic devices. When you do this too often for too long, it puts excess pressure on your neck (up to 50 pounds when those bones and muscles are only meant to support 10-15), causing you to develop a muscle strain or stress injury. This may result in neck soreness, headaches, and shoulder stiffness, and can get worse over time.
There are a few things you can do to help avoid developing tech neck or to reduce your discomfort until your next massage.
Raise Your Screen
All too often, our screens are situated much lower than they should be. Start by elevating your desktop screen, so the top 2-3” of your screen is at eye level. This goes for laptops as well – you could also consider working off of a second monitor. If you’re on a mobile phone or tablet, invest in a holder to keep your device raised, or try propping your elbows on a table. (And these tips from Columbia Neurological Surgery may help you figure out if you’re a “slouch potato” when it comes to your laptop habits.)
Remember to Take Breaks
Taking a break from staring at your screen will help you break the habit of keeping your neck in an incline. Try walking away from your desk for 2-3 minutes each hour. If you know you get caught up in tasks all too often, set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you. When you walk away from your computer, make sure that you’re doing things to change your posture as well. Try stretching out your neck muscles by dropping your chin to your neck and slowly raising it; then gently turn your chin towards each shoulder. And if you really can’t get away, take a 30-second mini-break every 15 minutes or so to close your eyes and stretch right at your desk.
Stretch and Exercise Your Muscles
As time goes on, the forward tilt of your head can weaken muscles. This then causes an imbalance. One way to combat long-term issues is to begin working on strengthening the muscles in your neck, chest, and upper back. As you develop these muscles, you are better able to support the weight of your head as well as lower the stress you put on your spine.
And of course, regular exercise is important. It may be difficult to work it into your daily schedule, but there are a few quick activities you can do:
- Take a short walk outside during lunch or between meetings.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park your car farther away to extend your beginning-of-day and end-of-day walks.
- If you have any non-digital tasks, space them out throughout the day to use as screen-breaks.
Bonus tip: building your abdominal and lower back muscles would also be to your benefit. Your core muscles actually play a crucial role in supporting your upper body – including your neck.
Fight Tech Neck with Ergonomics
The chair in which you spend 7-9 hours each day can play an important role in your posture. If it doesn’t already have a headrest, make the switch. Then make sure to keep your head even with the headrest when you use your screen – that will help keep you from tilting your head down too much.
And pay attention to your posture! You may not be thinking about it while you’re sending off emails or sitting in a meeting, but it affects you nonetheless. If you don’t have built-in adjustable lumbar support on your chair, try placing a small pillow or towel between your lower back and chair.
Listen to Your Pain
Your body sends you warning signs to tell you something is wrong or isn’t functioning as intended. These signs come in the forms of pain, numbness, and tingling. If you notice those feelings coming from your neck, between your shoulder blades, arms, or even head, it’s important to start making changes now so it doesn’t get worse with time.
Work Some Massage Into Your Routine
Another important step in relieving tech neck is to seek reprieve from a professional. Regular massage is a great way to help alleviate the side effects of improper screen-posture. If you feel that you or your employees could benefit from regular, scheduled massages to help stop tech neck and start a happier, healthier work life, let us know. We can help bring you some relief.