We live in an increasingly digital world where many of us spend hours each day looking down at our phones, tablets, and laptops. This puts immense strain on our necks and backs leading to the emergence of what’s known as “tech neck” – persistent pain, stiffness, and poor posture caused by too much screen time in less than ideal positions.
The bad news is that tech neck and its associated pains are becoming more and more common. The good news is that with some awareness and a few simple changes, you can prevent and treat tech neck to reduce pain, improve posture, and feel better overall. This article explores practical tips to stop tech neck in its tracks and undo the damage of years of bad posture.
Use Proper Setups and Equipment
The first line of defense against tech neck is optimizing the ergonomics of your digital devices. It may seem trivial, but something as simple as propping up a phone or laptop can make a dramatic difference.
For smartphones and tablets, get into the habit of using stands and mounts whenever possible instead of holding the device in your hands. This keeps the screen at eye level and alleviates strain on the neck. For laptop users, use a laptop pad to raise the screen and invest in a separate keyboard and mouse so you don’t have to hunch over the computer itself.
When sitting at a desk, be mindful of monitor height making sure it’s at or just below eye level. For extra relief, try attaching a monitor arm which gives you more flexibility in adjustments. And don’t forget about your chair – choose an ergonomic office chair suited to your height and make sure to sit up straight against the backrest instead of at the edge of your seat.
Take Regular Breaks
Even with proper equipment setup, sitting in one position staring at screens for too long can still put unhealthy pressure on the spine. Be intentional about taking regular short breaks to get up, move around, stretch and reset.
A good rule of thumb is to take a quick 1-3 minute break after every 30-45 minutes of sitting. Set reminders if needed. Simply standing up and walking around can get blood flowing and reduce tension. For extra relief, use these breaks to do simple neck stretches, rolls and exercises to alleviate muscle tightness and stiffness.
When taking longer breaks of 30 minutes or more, make sure to get in some deeper stretches and posture correcting movements. This gives tense areas more time to fully relax and reset. Our necks and backs will thank us later.
Be Aware of Everyday Posture
Hunching over digital devices isn’t the only culprit of tech neck and poor posture. How we hold ourselves throughout the day during basic activities can gradually misalign the spine and cause pain over time. The good news is that building mindful awareness of posture in everyday life can go a long way.
When sitting, consciously think about keeping your ears, shoulders and hips aligned vertically without slumping or rounding the shoulders. When standing, practice engaging core muscles, pulling shoulders back lightly and elongating the spine. And when walking, visualize leading with the chest and keeping your chin parallel to the ground.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just periodically checking in with subtle posture adjustments trains the mind and body over time. Supporting the back properly will start to feel natural.
Do Targeted Exercises and Stretches
One of the root causes of tech neck is weak neck, back and shoulder muscles that can’t adequately support the upper body against strain and poor posture. Taking time to actively strengthen these areas can thus be hugely preventative.
Try setting aside at least 10-15 minutes a day to do focused neck, shoulder and upper back exercises. Key movements to incorporate include chin tucks to engage neck muscles, band pull aparts to strengthen the shoulders and back, and seated rows to work the middle traps. Rotate through 8-12 reps of a couple different moves for a full routine.
Don’t forget the power of stretching either. Taking as few as 60 seconds to gently stretch tight spots in the neck, pecs, upper back, shoulders and lats can improve mobility and flexibility over time. This allows for better all around neck support and function.
Invest in Professional Help
For those already experiencing more severe tech neck pain, stiffness and loss of range of motion, investing some time and money into professional assistance can fast track recovery. Seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist or osteopath can provide immense relief.
These experts can assess where you may have strength/flexibility limitations or tissue restrictions contributing to poor posture. Hands on techniques like joint mobilization, trigger point release, muscle activation, posture retraining and more can start undoing current damage and get things moving properly again.
Some may benefit from just a few targeted sessions while others may require a more long term care plan. Either way, seeking professional help alongside daily prevention can optimize healing.
At the end of the day, an ounce of tech neck prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Slowly changing daily habits and being more conscious of how we hold ourselves is easier in the long run compared trying to undo years of strain, misalignments and muscle imbalances.
Our modern lifestyles may be more digitally focused, but the timeless principles of postural awareness and taking movement breaks still apply. With some mindfulness and consistency, preventing tech neck can simply become part of healthy routine. Our necks and backs will thank us.