Do you find your neck getting sore or feeling strained when you play video games or sit at the computer for extended periods? This is a common problem known as “gamer’s neck” or “tech neck,” and it affects anyone who spends hours hunched over screens with poor posture.
The human head weighs around 10-12 pounds on average. When you tilt your head forward at extreme angles to look down at a screen, you effectively double or even triple the amount of weight straining your neck. Over time, this unnatural head-forward position strains the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your neck and upper back. It can lead to chronic tightness, pain, pinched nerves and even disc damage in your cervical spine.
Luckily, with some simple adjustments and increased awareness, you can play your favorite games without suffering neck pain afterwards. Here are some tips to stop your neck from hurting during lengthy gaming or computer sessions:
Improve Your Seated Posture
Poor posture is the primary culprit behind gamer’s neck pain. When your head juts forward and your shoulders hunch inward, your neck has to support extra weight in an unnatural position.
Be mindful of straightening your neck and sitting upright when gaming. Align your ears over your shoulders instead of angling your head downward. Use a lumbar cushion or rolled-up towel behind your lower back to maintain the natural curve in your spine. Sit close enough to the screen to see clearly without leaning forward.
Set reminders to take a posture break every 30 minutes or so to reset your position. Building awareness of good posture habits goes a long way toward preventing neck strain.
Adjust Your Gaming Setup
An ergonomic gaming or computer setup encourages better posture by allowing you to maintain proper neck alignment:
- Elevate your screen to eye level with a monitor stand, sturdy books or blocks. This prevents excessive tilting of your neck downwards.
- Sit at arm’s length from your console or keyboard/mouse so you don’t have to crane forward.
- Position your chair at the right height to keep your eyes level with the top third of the screen.
- Reduce screen glare that may cause you to crane your neck to see better.
- Place gaming controls within comfortable reach to avoid hunching over.
A few simple tweaks to your existing setup can instantly improve your neck positioning.
Take Regular Short Breaks
Getting up frequently and moving around gives your neck muscles a chance to relax and recover from sustained contractions.
- Set a timer for every 30-60 minutes for a short 5-10 minute break.
- Gently stretch your neck during breaks – tilt your head side to side, turn your chin to each shoulder, nod your head gently up and down.
- Walk around during breaks to boost circulation.
- Use break time to correct your posture before resuming play.
Frequent short breaks are better than longer, infrequent ones when trying to minimize neck strain from extended gaming.
Perform Neck & Posture Exercises
Targeted exercises can strengthen the muscles that support proper neck and head carriage. Aim to do these daily:
- Chin tucks – Draw your chin straight back as if giving yourself a double chin. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Shoulder rolls – Lift shoulders up, roll them back and down in a circular motion.
- Neck stretches – Gently tilt head side to side, turn to look over each shoulder. Avoid overstretching.
- Isometric presses – Press your forehead gently against your hand for resistance.
Stronger muscles are less susceptible to neck strains. Combine with cardio for overall strength.
Use Neck Pillows and Supports
Specialized pillows, braces and supports reinforce better posture and provide extra comfort when gaming for hours.
- Memory foam neck cushions help fill the gap between your neck and chair.
- Inflatable travel pillows wrap around the neck for 360° support.
- Posture trainers provide tactile feedback when you slouch.
- Neck braces restrict movement but can aid recovery after injury.
Experiment to find which type of support works best for your gaming posture needs.
Try Physical Therapy
For chronic neck pain, consulting a physical therapist can provide relief. They will evaluate your condition and offer specialized treatment like:
- Targeted neck exercises and stretches
- Postural adjustment
- Manual therapy like massages and trigger point release
- Devices to support the neck during activity
- Heat, ice or electrotherapy for stiff muscles
- Advice on proper ergonomics
Physical therapy aims to treat the underlying cause of neck pain.
See a Doctor for Severe Pain
Seek prompt medical attention if you experience severe neck pain along with:
- Persistent headaches
- Pain or numbness radiating down your arms
- Noticeable weakness in your arms or hands
- Reduced mobility or range of motion in your neck
These may indicate an injury like a herniated disc or pinched nerve requiring further treatment. Don’t ignore chronic neck pain – address any posture issues right away before small problems progress.
With some awareness and proactive adjustments, you can play your favorite games and use electronic devices without discomfort. Pay attention to neck strain symptoms and take steps to maintain proper posture and strengthen your neck. By following these tips, you can avoid the dreaded gamer’s neck ache.