It feels like a truth universally acknowledged that as a whole, we're spending way too much time staring at screens. If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time looking downwards towards your computer, phone, or tablet. While obviously not being easy on the eyes, science shows that "tech neck" is a real risk as well. The symptoms of tech neck start subtle: Minor stiffness or pain in your neck, tension in your shoulders, and a general ache in your upper body.
It's really easy to brush off these symptoms as aging or stress related tension, but if they're occurring with frequency, it's important to see a professional. That's right: After a certain point, the ramifications of tech neck can be difficult (if not impossible) to fix or treat on your own. In worst case scenarios, tech neck can lead to the loss of strength in your fingers and hands. Scary, right?
Luckily, as Nora Zelevansky explains at SELF, there are things you can do at home to be preventive of tech neck. For instance, practicing yoga may help improve posture, and arm and neck extensions can stretch and strengthen muscles. And last but not least, simply remembering to keep your gadget at relative eye level (that is, a height where you can view it by adjusting your eyes, not your head or neck) is a necessity when it comes to relieving tech neck.
So, now that we've established a little background on what tech neck is and what the stakes are for your health, let's look at some of the specific symptoms and signs you may have what is a growing condition in our contemporary, tech-obsessed world:
1. Neck Pain
If you've ever finished a long day working at your computer (or, let's be honest, spent a whole evening watching Netflix in bed), you've probably closed your laptop only to bemoan a strained, throbbing sensation in your neck. While it's not unusual to experience some tenderness or strain once in a while, Heather Moore at Philly.com explains that neck pain is a bad sign if it occurs on a daily or even weekly basis.
2. Numbness and Tension in Your Fingers
Moore puts it bluntly: If you're experiencing numbness and tension in your fingers, it's time to see a medical professional. She points out that at this point, the condition has likely progressed, and may be challenging to deal with on your own. Without outside intervention, the condition can become worse as time goes on. In simple terms, the cause of the numbness in your hands and fingers stems from the compression of nerves in your neck.
3. Headaches and Migraines
Of course, headaches and screen time are something we often hear about in the same breath. Generally, we talk about screen time in relation to how it affects our vision. In this case, we're discussing it in terms of the extra strain you put on your body when you bend your neck and hang your head forward, towards the ground (or in this case, the screen). Basically, your body is prepared to support about ten pounds worth of weight when your head is held upright. Every inch you lean your head forward, you're "adding" weight. Some studies estimate that when you're in prime "tech neck position" (head leaning down, chin at your chest) you're adding up to an additional 60 pounds for your body to support. Unsurprisingly, this additional strain leads to headaches in many people.
4. Poor Posture
A lot of people hold their tech devices, like cell phones and e-readers, at chest or waist level, not eye level. This causes you to look down at your device by bending your neck and rounding your shoulders forward, both of which are terrible for your posture. Some health experts even claim that by bending your neck, you're essentially shortening and tightening your neck muscles and putting your spine in a dangerous position.
So, what can you do to protect your neck? Turn away from the screen! No, really. It's recommended you take short breaks from your screen time to get up, stretch your legs, and give your eyes a breather anyway. This is a good opportunity for you to also take note of your posture and pain levels. Make sure you focus on maintaining good posture and moving your eyes to the screen, not your neck, head, or shoulders when you do need to respond to emails or watch a GIF. If you think you're experiencing tech neck symptoms on a regular basis, it might be time to see a medical professional before things get worse. Because remember, nothing is worth more than your health.
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