How to prevent and treat “tech neck”

Nearly everywhere you go you see people – young and old – with some type of electronic device in their hand, a phone, tablet, or other computer device. You’ll see these people in a similar position – slumped shoulders with their head forward/down. Interested in the next social media craze or lost in scrolling, these individuals are looking down for several minutes at least (sometimes an hour or more) without changing their position. The long-term effect of staying in that same position is what some call “tech neck.”

“Tech neck” occurs when muscles are stressed while using phones, tablets, and computers, resulting in neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and soreness. The muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders become overtired from the head sitting too far forward and not allowing them to relax, which causes the mentioned symptoms. 

This can be prevented by using proper seating and posture, taking frequent breaks, and limiting time overall on electronic devices. The chair you use at a computer should recline slightly to avoid too much pressure on your spine especially in the neck and low back. You should take breaks, even if they are short, at least every 30 min. If possible, limit the overall time you spend on your devices during the day.

Treating tech neck: stretches, rest, heat. Stretch your neck muscles several times a day. (See this link for examples). Rest your muscles: put down your device, and find some time to relax your neck/shoulders. Put heat on the sore muscles for 10-15 min, which can be done a few times a day. See your doctor if you cannot seem to find relief; he/she may refer you to PT or have some other helpful tips.

Lindsay Brady, PTA

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