‘Tech neck’ can be a real pain, but preventable
Constantly hovering over electronics? Upper back curved or neck extended? That could be the result of "tech neck" — a term coined to describe a muscle-related condition that develops as a result of the chronic use of tech products.
New Jersey and New York orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo said so much has happened during the pandemic. That's because conditions have been altered from the ideal conditions at work.
At work, people normally have an ergonomic set-up with desks and chairs at specific heights. They had specific routines and breaks. But now that many people have been and continue to work from home, that whole set-up has changed.
What happens with tech neck?
He said many people are working at kitchen tables and desks not suited for long hours of work these days. When the upper back is curved, the held is tilted downward and the neck is extended forward, people are compressing and tightening their muscles, ligaments and tendons. This creates imbalance and results in pain, reduced mobility and even headaches.
Posterior neck discomfort is very common along with shoulder pain, sometimes radiating pain into their arms, Okubadejo said.
How to prevent tech neck
Have a chair that gives someone firm support. Make sure it gives lower back support which, in turn, will then mean good posture for the neck. Don't be stooped forward. That puts a lot more stress on the neck, he said.
Be more upright. Change positions every so often. People working at home should set an alarm every two hours. Get up, change position, do some stretching, then get back into that position and continue to work.
He said if people have a more ergonomic work set up with the right chair and desk and the person changes position and does some stretching, that should abate the problem.
The biggest thing people can do is have a regular exercise program, Okubadejo said. If a person works on strengthening neck, lower spine and core muscles, that will relieve so much pressure from the neck, shoulders and lower back.
When doing routine stretching and core strengthening, that should keep these problems from developing. He said have good range of motion activities for the neck and do a lot of core stretching activities. That combination usually tends people from developing problems in the neck and the lower back.
If someone's neck is down and they're texting all day, they're setting themselves up for disaster, he said. Have a timetable or clock management where the person is aware of how much time he or she is putting in while texting. To text, the neck has to be down. He said take breaks often, get the neck up and do some stretching. It will make a world of difference.
How do you recover from tech neck?
It all comes down to simple lifestyle changes. Tech neck is typically a muscular problem. So for most people, once they've altered their routines by having a more ergonomic setup and doing the right exercises, it tends to disappear. Okubadejo said there's always those rare instances though, where people, especially ones with herniation may need therapy, injections and even surgery to correct the problem.
"Technology, unfortunately puts us in a vulnerable position where we're more likely to have symptoms that we didn't have before technology dictates our lives as much as it does now. It's just a different world we live in now," Okubadejo said.
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