Tech neck is generalised neck pain and stiffness that arises due to the consistent use of mobile or electronic devices in a poor posture.
Symptoms of tech neck are exactly the same as generalised neck pain. They include:
- Pain, stiffness or tightness in the joints or muscles around the neck.
- Pain, altered sensations or weakness of muscles down the upper arm.
Using your mobile phone consistently with a poor posture puts a lot of strain and pressure on the neck, increasing the risk of neck pain and impingement occurring. As seen from the graphic below, when we look down on our phone, much more force and weight is placed through the joints and muscles in our neck. As posture becomes poorer and the neck bends further forward, more and more weight is placed through our neck. This cycle continues and symptoms arise or continue to worsen.
Tech neck is not limited to mobile phone use. Computer or laptop use can cause symptoms of tech neck too if they are set up incorrectly for your posture. As we can see in the photo below, the man is hunched forward on the computer, putting a lot of pressure on his neck. Consequently, due to the neck being too far forward, the shoulders have rounded as well, which will cause problems of their own related to poor posture.
Management of Tech Neck
The easiest way to manage, prevent, or minimise the symptoms of tech neck is to minimise time on electronic devices like the phone or computer. With the phone, there are strategies which you can use to prevent the effects of tech neck. These include, but are not limited to:
- Hold your phone at head level without having to bend your head forwards.
- When browsing the internet or watching movies etc use a computer or TV rather than your phone
- Use the phone purely as a communication device, avoid its use as much as possible.
Managing tech neck on the computer is a little more difficult. The computer and desk will need to be set differently from person to person to ensure optimal posture. Below is a photo that provides cues to help set up your computer or laptop for the optimal position.
Once symptoms arise, it is recommended you bring yourself in for a physiotherapy appointment. A physiotherapist will help ease the pain, stiffness and tightness around the neck, and prescribe exercises to help strengthen the muscles which stabilise your neck.