“Text neck” or “tech neck” is an increasingly prevalent overuse injury that is a real pain in the neck! Until very recently, neck pain tended to increase with age. For the last few years, though, younger patients have been seeking treatment for chronic neck pain.
As specialists in pain management, we’ve seen plenty of patients with chronic pain at Apex Medical Center. However, the number of younger patients with chronic neck pain is concerning.
When you spend too much time hunched over your phone, tablet, or laptop, you put unnecessary strain on your neck. The result of that strain over time can be disc herniations, pinched nerves, or permanent damage to the natural curve of your neck.
Although the name references your neck, you may feel the symptoms of tech neck in your back, shoulders, or you may have headaches. For each degree forward your head is tilted, your neck supports increasing amounts of weight.
For example, when you’re head is neutral, with a zero degree tilt, your neck supports the weight of your head, which is typically 10-12 pounds. When you tilt your head forward just a bit, to a 15-degree angle, your neck is supporting the equivalent of 27 pounds. If you’re looking very closely at your phone, tilting your head to a 60-degree angle, your neck is supporting 60 pounds!
With that kind of strain, the soft tissues of your neck become inflamed, and that inflammation can bring about spasms, pain between your shoulder blades, a stiff-feeling neck, numbness or tingling down into your arms, and headaches. Over time, your muscles tighten more and more, putting pressure on the discs between the vertebrae in your neck, which can cause them to bulge or even rupture.
Your posture suffers, as well. Your shoulders hunch forward, and your upper back curves outward, creating more muscle tightness.
Although it may seem simple enough to stop looking down at your phone or laptop, it’s not always such an easy fix. After all, modern life makes us nearly dependent on technology. So what can you do?
Being aware of the problem is an important first step. Take note of the position of your ears in relation to your shoulders. Your ears should be directly above your shoulders. You may need to raise your phone in order to bring your neck to a neutral position.
Take stock of your workspace. You may need to raise your screen in order to keep from looking down. Adjusting your chair and your desk to appropriate heights can be helpful.
Regardless of what you’re doing, if it involves a screen, take frequent breaks. Stop, look up, stretch, and move around. There are many apps available to help you remember to take a break.
If correcting your posture and taking breaks doesn’t help, you may need medical care. Treatment options may include exercises and stretches designed to help you strengthen the overtaxed muscles of your neck.
The best treatment for you depends on numerous factors, such as the extent of the damage, your medical history, your job, and many others. One thing that we stress at Apex Medical Center is providing care that is individualized. Our providers will discuss your specific situation with you before making treatment recommendations.
If you have neck pain that is not alleviated by changing or adjusting your posture while working or using your phone, book an appointment for an evaluation with our pain specialists. We have three locations, for your convenience. You can schedule online, or call the location that works best for you and we’ll help you.