Have you ever calculated the amount of time you spend looking at screens every day? A recent Forbes article revealed that the average American spends up to 12 hours a day in front of their TVs, computers, and smart device. If you spend your day at work using screens, that figure may be even higher.
If you’re like most people, the only screen you use at eye level or higher is the TV. When looking at a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone, your head is usually bent forward at least a few degrees. While seemingly innocuous, all that bending can put undue pressure on your neck and back. If your neck hurts after spending long periods of time on your computer or phone, you may be suffering from tech neck. While painful, tech neck is easy to prevent.
In this blog, Dinash Yanamadula, MD, at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute, discusses what tech neck is and how you can avoid it.
Tech neck basics
Your head is heavy. The average adult head weighs 10-12 pounds. Your neck is designed to hold up your head in its normal upright position, where the pressure on the muscles is the same as the actual weight.
As you look down, the gravity and pressure will make your head exponentially heavier. At a 45 degree angle, which is pretty common for smartphone usage, your head weighs about 49 pounds. Increase that to the 60-degree angle you may use with a phone or tablet in your lap, and your neck muscles are contracting to support about 60 pounds of weight. All that weight can tire out your neck and upper back muscles, making them sore and painful.
Preventing tech neck
With just a few tips, you can avoid developing tech neck and the pain that can come with it.
1. Sit with the correct posture
You may think that sitting straight up is the answer, but it’s not. While doing so may help your neck, it can put too much pressure on the discs in your back. Instead, try to lean back at about a 25-30 degree angle. You’ll know you’re at the right angle when your head would fall backward instead of forward if you dozed off.
2. Spread out your screen time
At work, schedule meetings or lunch to break up long periods of time spent in front of the screen. And at work or home, try to get up every 30 minutes and move around when you’re using digital devices, even if it’s only for a minute.
3. Try to keep your screens at eye level or just below
If you spend all day with a computer, try to use a standing desk or monitor riser. And when you’re holding a device, try to hold it closer to your face to reduce the angle on your neck.
4. Get a good chair
If possible, use a chair with a headrest. You’ll know you’re in the right position when your head is against the headrest.
5. Work out your muscles
When exercising, try to work out muscle groups that play a role in holding up your head. Your neck, upper back, chest, and core would be the areas to target.
You don’t have to live with the pain of tech neck. If prevention hasn’t worked, come see Dr. Yanamadula and the rest of our team at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute. Book an appointment online or over the phone today.