What's The Deal With "Tech Neck?"

by Pamela J. Hobart

We all know by now that there are plenty of health risks to a sedentary, technology-fueled lifestyle, but "tech neck" may not be at the top of your concerns list. What is "tech neck," exactly? Well, I'm glad you asked, because this condition is widely experienced but perhaps not so widely discussed. You may even be suffering from an acute case of tech neck without realizing it.

Basically, throughout the day, we hold our heads at a variety of different angles. When you're out walking around, your head is mostly held level, with your gaze running parallel with the ground. Sometime we look up, like at high shelves or taller people. More often, though, we look down — especially at devices like laptops and hand-held mobile phones.

The problem and cause of "tech neck" is that looking down places an unusually heavy strain at the place where your head and neck connect. The further down you're looking, the heavier the strain — up to 60 pounds at 60 degrees down, according to one calculation. This is a problem, because the neck is generally able to easily support only about 10 or 12 pounds — simply the weight of your head, and not its exaggerated weight when you orient it forward and down with a heavier effective weight due to gravity's pull.This repeated additional strain of "tech neck" (aka "text neck") can lead to neck pain from the compression. This pain can even end up extending into your arms and fingers due to the way that the nerves in this area of the body are arranged.

If you're suffering from this kind of pain and tension, the first thing to do is stop putting additional strain on your neck by looking down. This can be easily achieved by holding your phone up in front of your face (instead of down in your lap) and by placing your laptop, tablet, or monitor closer to eye level using a stand. And keep in mind that it's not just technological devices that can screw up your neck; other activities that involve extended downward gazing, like cooking or crafting, could certainly do it, too.

If the pain persists, you might want to consider seeing a physical therapist. He or she will be able to recommend and demonstrate the kind of stretches and neck-alleviating exercises that can help get you back into good working order. And be sure to do this sooner rather than later, because you don't want tech neck damage becoming permanent for you. That'd be a ridiculously steep price to pay for a few text messages!

Images: Dai KE/Unsplash; Giphy (3)