Tech neck: In today’s fast-paced world, people spend most of their time in front of the screens of devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Not only does excessive screen time affect one’s eyes and mental health, but is also linked with poor posture, which harms the neck and spine. Due to poor posture, the curvature of the spine may change. This disorder, called tech neck, can result in severe muscle strain and mobility loss, according to the American Osteopathic Association.
In order to avoid tech neck, doctors suggest people must use the selfie position to check their devices, keep their head up, and hold the phone straight out.
When one tilts the head forward 60 degrees, 60 pounds of pressure (about 272 Newtons of force) are exerted on the neck, said Dr Stacey Pierce-Talsma from Touro University California, according to the American Osteopathic Association.
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Tech neck and other problems arising due to excessive screen time and bad posture
Tech neck arises when people use small screen technology by holding the device below eye level. Tech neck can lead to disc degeneration and nerve complications, said Dr Pierce-Talsma. Neck stiffness, shoulder tightness, or a general ache in the upper body can occur.
She explained that improper posture adds tension and compression to structures that were not meant to bear that weight, and these stresses and strains build up over time and wear down bones, joints and ligaments.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, posture influences the biomechanical efficiency of the body because it is a reflection of how the musculoskeletal system is functioning as a whole.
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Dr Pierce-Talsma said that good posture places the least amount of strain on the muscles, bones and ligaments as one moves, and poor posture leads to fatigue and pain.
According to an April 2021 study published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, the duration of screen time is associated with the degree of spinal pain in pre-adolescents.
Being physically inactive is also linked to a higher likelihood of severe spinal pain compared to those who are moderately active.
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Therefore, reducing screen time and increasing physical activity can help prevent spinal pain in pre-adolescents, the study said.
Work from home practices have also contributed to increased screen time, poor posture, and tech neck cases. When people sit for long periods in a bad posture, the spine experiences excess strain.
“Sitting for extended periods of time can lead to disorders such as kyphosis and lordosis. Overexposure to screens can cause tech neck, a condition in which the head tilts forward, putting strain on the neck and upper spine and causing pain and stiffness. The absence of ergonomic office setups in remote work typically results in neck and back pain,” Dr Debashish Chanda, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement Specialist, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, told ABP Live.
Kyphosis is a condition in which there is an increased front-to-back curve of the spine. There is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the upper back, according to Mayo Clinic. It may give the appearance of one hunching over.
Lordosis, an exaggerated inward curve of the spine, affects the neck or lower back, and is also called swayback.
Dr Chanda said that chronic discomfort, muscular imbalances,herniated discs, decreased mobility, and degenerative changes in the spine are some effects of spinal strain due to bad posture. He suggested that even at home, one must maintain a good posture, keep moving their body and performing stretching exercises, and create an ergonomic environment to work.
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How tech neck and other problems arising due to bad posture and increased screen time can be prevented and treated
Lifestyle modifications can help treat tech neck. People must sit as tall as they can, similar to a military posture, and then relax a bit, because good posture should not be painful, according to Dr Pierce-Talsma. Strength building exercises are important to prevent the adverse impacts of bad posture.
While medications can treat inflammation and reduce pain, it is important to correct one’s posture to address the root cause of the problem. Physical therapy can address muscular issues.
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According to Dr Pierce-Talsma, osteopathic manipulative treatment can improve the symptoms of tech neck and address underlying causes of pain, the American Osteopathic Association said on its website. Osteopathic manipulative treatment is a technique in which a person’s muscles and joints are moved and manipulated to correct structural imbalances, improve circulation, and relieve pain.
People who work from home must ensure that their workstation is designed in such a way that they can maintain a neutral posture, and the desk, chair, and computer screen are properly positioned with the help of ergonomic furniture or other adjustments.
“Take frequent, small breaks to stand, stretch, and move about to lessen the effects of extended sitting. Incorporate core-strengthening exercises and neck exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles and lessen strain. To improve your setup, make use of add-ons like laptop stands. To support general spine health, in addition to these steps, keep a balanced diet, remain hydrated, and participate in regular physical exercise,” Dr Satnam Singh Chhabra, Director, Department of Neurosurgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told ABP Live.
One must perform stress-reduction exercises carefully to ensure that these movements do not deteriorate the pain induced by bad posture and tech neck.
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