Tech Neck: What Is It and How to Fix It

Tech Neck Syndrome

Has your screen become a pain in the neck?  If you have ever experienced neck pain while using a device – you know what I mean.  Tech Neck Syndrome has been increasing over the last decade due to the increase in use of personal electronic devices.  Tech Neck is defined as any neck pain resulting from excessive strain placed on the neck from looking down at devices including PC’s, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Sustained forward head postures, where the head is bent down or with the chin poking forward, causes overuse of the muscles that support the weight of the head.  The load placed on the neck is directly related to how bent or forward the head is, with increasing loads placing more strain on the neck, causing the muscles to become sore, tense, and stiff and the joints in the neck to become stiff.  

Symptoms of tech neck include neck, upper back, and shoulder pain, headaches, muscle aches or spasms, difficulty moving your head and neck, numbness and tingling into the arms and hands, and vision problems.  This, in turn, can lead to difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances.   There are several ways to prevent and decrease Tech Neck symptoms from occurring.

Position Devices at Eye Level

Ideally, the top of the screen should be at eye level and the device should be no farther than one arm length away from your face.  Using stands and tables that are designed for this can be extremely beneficial.

Be Mindful of Your Body Position

When you are using a device, take 30 seconds to do a head-to-toe body scan.  When looking at your position from the side, you should be able to draw a straight line from your ear to your hip when seated, or your ankle when standing.        

Take Frequent Rest Breaks

Use the 20-20-20 Rule when using devices for extended periods of time.  The rule states that, every 20 minutes you should look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  This gives your eye muscles a break, as well as an opportunity to move your head and neck.  During rest breaks, it is also advised to change your position and move your body to increase blood circulation.  

Perform Neck Exercises

Chin retractions are like sit-ups for your neck and strengthen the muscles in the front of your neck that tend to be weak from increased forward head and neck bending postures.  Chin retractions can be performed by moving your chin backwards to give yourself a double chin, while keeping your head in a neutral position, performing 10-20 repetitions.  You can also stretch the muscles on the sides of your neck by tilting your head to the side and gently pulling with your opposite hand until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 20-30 seconds on each side.  Lastly, you can perform head rotations by looking over your shoulder and giving a gentle stretch with your hand once you get to the end of the movement, holding for 20-30 seconds on each side.    

If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse, it is advised to seek the advice of a medical professional.  

Jessica Lott

By Jessica Lott, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Jessica Lott is a Doctor of Physical Therapy living in Taipei since 2021.  She is from the United States and has been living and working in Asia since 2014.  Prior to living in Taiwan, she lived in Shanghai, China, where she worked as a Physical Therapist at Shanghai United Family Hospital and UP Clinic.  Jessica has experience treating various conditions and injuries and works with individuals of all ages.  She is passionate about physical health, wellness, and helping people achieve their goals.

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