How often do you see your child hunched over their device, sporting poor posture and slouched shoulders with their head tilted forward? “Tech neck” symptoms are easy to spot on teens and kids, but adults are oftentimes just as bad. If you work on a computer all day, then spend time on your phone away from your desk, your posture is likely to be just as affected as your child’s.
As a parent today, I understand how much things have changed since I was a kid. I know, parents say that all the time, but it’s true. My childhood was spent outdoors, riding my bike and playing with friends. The technology in my house consisted of one TV that got four channels (which you had to get up to switch). The phone was something connected to the wall that had only one purpose, and that was to make calls – crazy, I know.
Today, a lot of kids have their own iPads at school, then many come home and ask to play games on their phones or tablets. According to Common Sense Media, the amount of time that kids spend on mobile devices each day is 10 times higher than it was eight years ago. Tech neck is wreaking havoc on their bodies, causing not only neck pain, but headaches, tingling, and eyesight issues.
What is tech neck?
Tech neck, also referred to as text neck, is when the shape of your spine changes due to bad posture, caused from spending hours looking down at a device, or slumped forward on a computer. Tech neck is easy to spot, simply look at a person from the side. Does their head tilt forward? Is there a lump at the base of their neck? Do their shoulders round forward? These are just a few telltale signs.
What are the symptoms of tech neck?
When you tilt your head forward just 45 degrees, your neck muscles are doing the work of lifting approximately 50 pounds. Headaches, neck pain or spasms, and shoulder pain are the most common complaints. Oftentimes people also have a hard time focusing or looking up after they’ve been looking down for a long time. In some cases a pinched nerve in your neck could cause feelings of numbness, tingling, neck pain, or weakness in your arms.
In severe cases, the muscles work so hard to hold your forward bending head up, they tighten, then put more pressure on the discs. This process makes the discs wear out faster, leading to a potential bulge or disc rupture. When a ruptured disc pinches a nerve it can cause severe pain, weakness, or numbness in the arm.
Tips to avoid tech neck pain
- Practice Good Posture – Hunching over a computer all day or playing video games for hours on end almost guarantees a slouching posture, which is a major cause of tech neck pain and back pain. Trying to overcome bad posture might bring you back to your adolescent days when your mother always told you to sit up straight. We needed a reminder back then and we still need one today. Kids might respond to a quick sticky note that’s placed somewhere visible. A reminder for you might be a lumbar roll between your lower back and office chair.
- Keep Devices at Eye Level – Tech neck pain is caused when you place your head at a forward position to look down at your device. Teach your child to hold their tablet or phone up so they’re looking straight at it at eye level – this will help reduce the pressure placed on the neck. Also, a monitor stand for your computer will help reduce neck pain. If you want to take things a step further, consider a standing desk, which has other health benefits due to the reduced amount of time sitting.
- Limit Screen Time – Especially when it comes to kids, limit screen time and help them find a balance between the virtual and real world. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than 2 hours per day of screen time for children over the age of 2. Kids needs to be active throughout the day.
- Stretch – This is a quick and easy solution that you can use all day long. See our tips for stretching while at your desk. You should also get up and walk around once every hour that you’re at your desk. Encourage the same of your children if they’re spending extra time at the computer doing homework.
If your student (or you) are experiencing back, shoulder pain, or neck pain that you think may be associated with tech neck, schedule a free consultation with a physical therapist. You’ll have an opportunity to discuss what you’re experiencing and based on your symptoms we can recommend the next steps to alleviate your pain.