No the title is not an insult to computer whizzes around the world. “Tech neck syndrome” or “iPhone syndrome” refers to an unhealthy trend being seen more and more frequently. I have experienced the effects of this syndrome myself and am starting to notice more clients with the same issue. I hear complaints of sore necks, shoulder pain, arm and wrist complications; even loss of feeling in fingers. Tech neck syndrome occurs from spending countless minutes and hours on our electronic devices. Continuous use of these devices forces our necks to flex too much (causing spinal lordosis) and round our upper-backs trying to get a better view of the display screen. It doesn’t end at smart phones either, think of the hours each day spent straining our necks trying to get a better look at the improperly positioned laptop screen or iPad tablet. We are consumed by all our technology for hours on end.
Certainly not every ache or pulled muscle can be blamed on computer and electronic use, but the problems are definitely exacerbated by them. A study by researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health found that millions of iPad and tablet users are at risk of shoulder and neck pain because of the way they use the high-tech devices. Researchers found people were particularly at risk when the tablet was placed on their lap. These habits left untreated or unchecked, can cause the overuse of these muscles and tendons, and can lead to degenerative conditions, arthritis and even irreversible damage to tendons and nerves.
Think holding a cell phone can’t cause any problems? Try this test yourself.
1. Hold your phone up in front of you and look down at the screen for a full 60 seconds.
2. Notice how your neck and shoulders feel as the clock ticks by.
3. Feel any discomfort in your muscles?
4. Now think of how you would feel after holding your phone and looking down for five minutes. Ten minutes. You get the idea.
When using your phone or media player you typically focus your attention on the task, not on your muscle tension. Doing this exercise makes you more aware of how you use your body when typing or viewing your smart phone/tablet.
Of course the best way to get rid of the syndrome is to not use your device at all, but in today’s world that is not practical. I love my iPhone and iPad, and do not plan on giving them up. So here are some practices that may help alleviate the tech neck symptoms:
1. Whenever possible, rest your elbows on a table or surface so that your arms are propped up to view your smart phone. This takes pressure off your neck and shoulder muscles and will let you work more easily.
2. Purchase an inexpensive Smart phone/tablet holder to use to prop up your device when you are on the go.
3. Try to limit the time you are using the device. If you are playing a game, set a timer so you don’t end up playing for an hour when you were only going to play for 15 minutes.
4. Take breaks. If you use your device for work, try to take a break every 15-20 minutes and actually walk away. Try stretching and moving the arms, shoulders and neck around.
5. MASSAGES! Getting a massage (ahem DOMINICK) to help work out the kinks always helps.
As with everything else in life, use moderation when it comes to electronic device use. Follow the tips above and you should be feeling more limber and have less pain in your upper body!