Nowadays, using technology on a regular basis such as smartphones, laptops or tablets, we use them so often and for such an extended period of time, that they can be a contributing factor towards experiencing or exacerbating cases of neck pain. According to a recent report by Ofcom this year, people are on average spending on average 24 hours a week online, with around 1 in 5 adults spending up to 40 hours. Their research accounted the huge rise in time spent online, to the explosion in popularity of smartphones over the last 10 years. In fact, it was shown we can check our phones around every 12 minutes.
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What is ‘Tech Neck’?
Most people when using their mobiles tend to have less of an awareness about their posture, therefore there is a growing number of patients developing a particular neck position that has been called ‘tech neck’. As people tend to lean their head down in order to look at the phone, or their laptop or tablet if it’s on their lap, whether this be in the morning or evening on the commute to and from work, or in their spare time in the evening, it’s common to develop more of a forward head carriage as the weight of the head can alter the neck curve. This position is quite unhealthy for the spine as it places more pressure on more delicate areas of the spine that are not designed to bear that weight, this can lead to the accelerated level of degeneration in the discs or more serious conditions developing such as nerve compression or eventually disc bulging or herniation. Early signs that you need to adjust your posture in your day-to-day life can include neck pain, upper back or shoulder muscle tension and frequent headaches.
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Avoiding Neck Pain
There are several ways you can avoid developing neck pain, or worsening the problem if you’ve already been suffering with it, as there are healthier ways you can use your technology devices. Firstly, if you’re using your phone regularly start to become more conscious of how you’re holding your mobile phone. Rather than holding it down so your neck is forced to look down, try holding the phone higher at eye level. This small adjustment can go a long way to avoid developing stiffness and tension down the back of your neck. Also, try not just limiting this change of behaviour to only your phone. If you have a desk job, try to make sure your neck is a neutral position when looking at your computer screen. This may mean you have to stand the monitor on books in order to lift it higher, or lower your desk chair.
Holding your Phone at Eye-Level
Our next tip is to purchase ‘pop sockets’ in order to help you manage to hold your phone high, at eye level, for sustained periods of time. If you’ve ever held your phone in front of your eyes while lying on your back, you know how difficult it is to hold your phone in that position for any length of time. Making this step easier for yourself will help to make it something you are able to comfortably maintain as a lifestyle change, rather than something that you stick to for a couple of days and gradually revert back. Pop sockets are small sockets that attach onto the back of your phone or case, they can lie almost flat and can also be pulled up so that you can prob your phone up – but they also serve as a helpful aid to your hands in order to have something to grip to when you’re holding your phone at eye-level. These sockets are inexpensive and can go a long way to help make the change more sustainable for you in the long-term.
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Neck Pain taking Telephone Calls
The last tip that we have at this time, is to avoid holding your phone to your ear in order to take telephone calls. Most people if they take a telephone call where they’re holding their phone (this could be a mobile or an office phone) to their ear, tend to crook their neck slightly or extremely if they’re supporting the phone between the shoulder and ear without holding it with their hands at all. If you’re regularly taking phone calls, you may find that taking a hands free approach with either a Bluetooth headset or opting for headphones will help your neck in the long-run to avoid unnatural neck positions especially if you’re on a long call and hold the position for an extended period of time.
Making these subtle changes to your everyday life can contribute towards a much healthier neck in the long term. It’s common to underestimate the effect the weight of your head leaning forward can have an impact on the curve in your neck. A forward head carriage over a long period of time can even contribute towards a hump forming at the base of the neck, as well as causing a multitude of unpleasant symptoms that can make your daily life, as well as sleeping, uncomfortable or painful. Your neck also carries vital information from your brain to the rest of your body, so in order to help your body function effectively for as long as possible, taking care of your neck is highly recommended.