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What Is “Tech Neck” and How Can You Avoid It?

If you’re struggling with neck pain, you’re in good company. At least 25% of Americans suffer from neck pain, and the trouble it causes rarely stops at the neck. Chronic neck pain can make carrying out your everyday tasks, from getting dressed to driving, excruciating.

Unfortunately, much of today’s neck pain stems from our relationship with technology and the devices we use nearly every hour of the day. No wonder the average American adult spends over 11 hours interacting with computers, televisions, tablets, and other types of technology. 

At Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Arlington, Virginia, John Huffman, MD, and our pain specialists understand the trouble neck pain causes. We specialize in diagnosing and treating the many causes of neck pain — including tech neck! 

We’ve put together this guide to explain tech neck, a common trigger for neck pain, and the steps you can take to avoid it. Here’s what you need to know! 

What is “tech neck?”

Your neck has a big job to do, supporting your head with key nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, housing essential organs and glands, and protecting your spine. When you tip your head forward, your delicate neck strains to keep it supported.

Tech neck results when your head rests forward for extended periods, such as when you hunch over a laptop at work, scroll through your phone, or stare down at your tablet or other devices. 

The poor posture these tasks usually require adds additional strain to your upper back and neck, pulling your spinal cord and nerves out of their neutral position for hours at a time and triggering the pain associated with the neck. 

As we spend more and more time interacting with technology, the risk of developing tech neck increases. This is problematic since tech neck can cause more trouble than a simple pain in the neck, including:

It can also exacerbate or aggravate other spinal or cervical conditions, like cervical osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease. 

How can I avoid tech neck?

It’s nearly impossible to avoid technology, but there are steps you can take to avoid developing the painful tech neck it can cause. Here are our top five tips for preventing tech neck:

1. Practice good posture

Be sure to sit and stand using good posture as much as possible. Keep your spine neutral as much as possible by placing your feet flat on the ground, holding your back straight, and evenly distributing your weight across both hips. Your shoulders should be back but relaxed, and your head shouldn’t lean forward. 

2. Take tech breaks

Give your neck a break by stepping away from technology every half hour. A few minutes away gives you the opportunity to stretch, move your body, and change your posture to alleviate any strain. An activity tracker or timer on your smartphone can help remind you!

3. Level your screens

Since you can’t avoid technology, be sure to level the playing field by keeping your screens at eye level. Looking down strains your neck and causes the discs in your upper spine to move out of place. Place your computer screen at eye height and avoid using your phone or tablet for longer activities, like responding to email or typing up documents. 

4. Strengthen your neck

Help your neck hold up your head by working to strengthen your neck muscles, shoulders, and chest. Be sure to engage in general strength-building exercises at least twice a week to get started, and talk to your provider at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists for a customized exercise plan for your unique needs. 

5. Invest in ergonomics

One of the best things you can do to avoid tech neck is to invest in ergonomics. For example, by using an ergonomic chair with a headrest, you can avoid looking down by keeping the back of your head in contact with the headrest while you work.  

Are there treatments for tech neck?

If you’re suffering from neck pain, it’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis since not all neck pain is caused by tech neck. Dr. Huffman and the team at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists can help by diagnosing your pain and creating a customized treatment plan that may include:

Contact the Northern Virginia offices of Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists to schedule a visit or book an appointment online now. You can also take advantage of our virtual visits!

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