Stop where you are.
On your morning train commute. At the office. The local cafe. Post-work pub drinks. Even at home with your family.
Now look around you.
The odds are, there’s at least one person in your immediate vicinity looking at their phone, laptop or tablet. Worst case scenario - and a likely one - everyone is.
Aside from the obvious communication obstacles this change in our culture has brought about, there’s another dangerous perpetrator at play - tech neck.
Now you’ve got a gadget-obsessed culprit in your visual crosshairs, look at their posture. Their spine, neck and shoulders. It’s probable their neck is entirely bent as they look directly down at their phone; their shoulders sloped, spine curved. You’re looking at the cause (and the symptoms) of tech neck.
Spinehealth.com, a leading authority of - you guessed it - the health of your spine, defines this modern health epidemic simply.
“The act of holding your head flexed and forward while looking down at your handheld device and/or laptop screen places your cervical spine in a tenuous position,” they explain. “Over long periods of time, maintaining this head-forward posture can lead to muscle strain, disc injury, nerve impingement and arthritic changes of the neck—and the potential for developing ongoing neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and pain radiating down the arms.”
Tech neck is an unfortunate symptom of the always-connected, hectic lives we lead today. As a result, more and more people are suffering from pain associated with the disorder, and physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists are in hot demand as patients from young children through to the elderly seek help in rectifying the physical symptoms - but often not the cause.
Educating yourself on how to combat the causes of tech neck can save you the pain in the neck later. Pun intended.
There’s so many ways you can fight tech neck and maintain healthy spinal habits, whether you’re one of the lucky ones that it hasn’t affected, or you’re suffering from the effects of it right now.
Like many of us, do you work a desk job or are constantly on your phone? Make it absolutely mandatory to take regular breaks from your device, even setting a timer to ensure you stick to it. Health experts recommend taking at least a three minute break for every twenty minutes on your device. This isn’t just important for spine and neck health - it’s also important to avoid eye strain. Another modern issue.
Secondly, ensure your desk equipment is ergonomically sound. HR departments have an obligation to perform regular audits on workers desks to ensure the quality and height of your desk and chair are not putting added stress on your spine. Have a chat with them if you feel that your desk setup could be amplifying the issue, and ensure you have a good office chair with a headrest for support.
Many desk workers rave about the health benefits of standing desks, which are essentially desks you can alter the height of so that you can choose to either sit or stand while on your computer. Standing desk converts attest to the spinal benefits of these handy adjustable gadgets, available at most major stores that sell office equipment.
Attend a yoga or Pilates class, or take part in any form of exercise that involves stretching. Take breaks throughout the day to perform a few necks rolls, first to the left and then to the right to loosen up tight neck muscles. Search YouTube for easy exercise you can do at home to strengthen your cervical spine.
Finally, if you are showing signs of tech neck, don’t leave it until it’s crunch time to see a professional. It’s more difficult for a physio or chiro to treat a long-term condition. It is best to commence treatment early - and regularly - and not just when pain strikes. Maintaining good spinal and neck health is an ongoing process that needs regular check-ins.
Here at EFM, as much as we are a device-loving, gadget-collecting team that thrives on new technology, we also understand the importance of not letting associated health issues caused by technology wreck havoc on our lives.
Making a conscious effort to follow these steps and stay aware of when you start to slip into a spinal slump is a powerful way to take control of your health for the long term.
So take a break. Step outside (without your phone) and smell the roses. Go for a walk in the sunshine - device free. Play with your pets or children without a technological distraction. Laugh with your friends, in real time - not on a screen.
Your physical and mental health will thank you for it.