More people than ever are suffering from "tech neck," a term used to describe neck pain directly attributed to technology use, according to the New York Post. Left unattended, tech neck can turn into serious problems like debilitating chronic pain or even a permanent change in your skeleton.
Luckily, you don’t have to swear off screens forever to avoid unsightly and painful skeletal changes. We talked to an expert about a few simple exercises you can easily add to your daily routine to combat the serious strain technology puts on our necks.
Why We Get "Tech Neck"
"The body adapts to the stresses and strains what we put on it," says Michael Post, PT, DPT at NYU Langone Health. "We know from a biological standpoint that holding a stretch for longer than 20 minutes can cause that area to lose some extensibility and flexibility."
According to Post, those prolonged periods of hunching over our screens are slowly causing our necks to "get stuck" in a more forward position, because those strained tissues lose their their pliability. This can cause a lot of pain and dysfunction.
"Think of it like this," Post explained. "If you wrapped a rubber band around a bunch of pencils and left it there for a few years, the rubber band [would dry] out, become brittle, and lose its stretch."
How to Reverse "Tech Neck"
The bad news? "Tech neck" can lead to some serious and permanent neck complications down the road. The good news? There’s something most of us can do to alleviate and even reverse symptoms right now.
"Unless there’s been a structural change to the skeleton, which you primarily see with the elder population, the patient should be able to abort the resting posture and move in the other direction," Post said. In other words, it's possible to train your neck back to the beautiful, upright status it was at before you even knew cell phones existed.
Besides making an effort to get away from your screen every 20 to 30 minutes, try adding these easy exercises into your routine. Post recommends doing 10 reps of each exercise, at least once a day.
1. SLOUCH TO OVER-CORRECT
Over-emphasize a slouched posture, rolling your shoulders forward and bending your neck forward. Then over-correct the position, rolling your shoulders behind you and bringing your chin up toward the ceiling.
2. CHIN TUCKS
Tuck your chin down toward the middle of your neck, as if you were trying to make a double-chin. Then slowly raise your chin back up to neutral.
3. OVERHEAD REACHES
Sit or stand with your eyes facing forward and your shoulders pulled down and back from your ears. Slowly raise your arms all the way overhead, reaching toward the ceiling. Slowly return your arms back down to your sides.
4. SCAPULAR RETRACTIONS
Sit or stand with your eyes facing forward and your shoulders pulled down and back from your ears. Without letting your shoulders raise up, squeeze your shoulder blades together behind you, then relax.