If, unlike me, you're actually sitting up straight and reading this article on a screen at your eye level, good for you! You likely are not suffering from the symptoms of tech neck. If, however, you're reading it with your head bent at a downwards angle, your shoulders hunched forward, and a dull pain in your neck — which probably describes most of us — the good news is that there are a variety ways to alleviate tech neck. As screens and technology become progressively more ingrained into our daily lives, it seems more people than ever are experiencing tech neck symptoms. Generally, the symptoms of tech neck include: shoulder pain, headaches, numbness in your arms, numbness in your fingers, and neck stiffness. But at least there are things we can do about it all, right?
Given the amount of time we spend staring at screens, it's not surprising that more people are complaining about tech neck than ever before. With the world at our fingertips, it seems like most of our are looking down at our laps (or, down at our feet, as one in three people reportedly text while walking), and it simply isn't doing our health any favors. Here are five suggestions on how to alleviate the symptoms of tech neck — although if you don't experience it yet, keep them in mind anyway. Following them may help you continue to prevent tech neck from occurring in the first place:
1. Rearrange Your Desk
Ideally, your computer should be roughly at your eye level — which means that if you tend to type while curled up on a couch with your laptop in your lap and your head facing downwards (like I do), your neck is likely suffering from it. In terms of the science of the whole thing, your neck is prepared to balance the weight of your head when it's properly supported — that is, facing forward and upright. When it's constantly hanging downwards, however, your head feels heavier on your neck, therein causing neck pain.
A simple solution to this is to rearrange your desk space so your screen is at a level you can see while holding your head correctly. If you don't have a traditional desk, it's time to get creative with your office space — I struggle with prioritizing this myself, but making sure you take care of your health is important, and your neck is not something you want to push to its limits.
2. Improve Your Overall Posture
There are many ways you can approach improving your posture. In our technology-obsessed world, there are even apps you can download that will basically rate your posture and give you specific suggestions on how to improve it, which is pretty cool. There are also lots of workout moves to improve your posture you can do at home or at the gym. Having good posture is good for your health to begin with, but especially if you're suffering from tech neck, it's important to make good posture a habit all of the time, so it'll feel more natural when you're glued to your screen.
3. Start Practicing Yoga
There are a lot of health benefits to practicing yoga, period. For many people, it's good for both their mind and their body. For others, yoga is a spiritual experience as well. If you're suffering from tech neck, certain yoga positions can be beneficial for your improving your posture as well as for alleviating some of the pain and discomfort in your neck and shoulders.
4. Limit Your Screen Time
I know, I know. A lot of us spend a lot of time staring at screens because of work or school obligations, so it can feel impossible to cut down. But I promise you, it's possible: Studies show that, on average, Millennials spend at least an hour a day on Facebook alone, so there's an hour right there you could probably cut out without it negatively affecting your work or school situation. Other studies on the screen time of Millennials estimate that people between the ages of 18 and 38 spend an average of nearly 18 hours consuming media through screens, including checking email, watching videos, reading articles, etc.
Now, to be fair, these aren't necessarily "individual" hours spent. It's entirely likely that most of us are, for example, sending text messages, checking Facebook, and watching TV within the same period of time, but for the purpose of this study, it counts as more "screen time" than what is perhaps "real" time out of your day. Still, the number is crazy high. Technology can be addictive, and it's more than OK to put it all down and step away from the screens, at least once in a while.
5. See A Professional
If you're experiencing the symptoms associated with tech neck, it may be time to see a medical professional. The most common symptoms are a strained or stiff neck, tightness or pain between your shoulder blades, headaches, and tingles in the arms and hands. While tech neck is something you can (ideally) stop before it starts, if you frequently notice these symptoms and know you spend too much time staring at screens in a way that probably isn't good for your neck, it might be time to see a professional and get their opinion on where to go from here. After all, when it comes to your health, it's not something you want to put off until things get worse.