High-tech Can Be a Pain in the Neck

How Smartphones Can Hurt Your Neck

We live in a constantly connected world. One where anyone can reach you at any time, unless you're on a beach in the British Virgin Islands and "accidentally" drop your smartphone into the water. Other issues aside—workaholism, for one—being tethered to your smartphone can be a pain in the neck. Literally and figuratively.

Man texting while riding on the busYou've seen people like this: shoulders hunched forward, neck straining at an uncomfortable angle, squinting at the screen, thumbs a blur as they type.

It's a posture most often associated with our smartphones, and it seems that most people—from your little niece to your boss—has one of these things.

But it's poor posture, and it can lead to a lot of neck pain.

This 21st Century problem is being called "tech neck," and it can be caused by straining your neck forward to see that screen. As you type out an email to a colleague or answer your boss' latest urgent request, you're holding your neck at an unnatural angle. And it stays there for much longer than it should, causing muscle strain and pain.

Handheld device users also tend to hunch their shoulders forward. The oddly angled neck and rounded shoulders strains the entire upper body.

Add general work stress to the poor posture, and handheld device addicts can feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

So what can you do?

First, the dream answer:

  • Go to White Bay in the British Virgin Islands.
  • Throw your smartphone in the water.
  • Lay down on a beach towel.
  • Do some deep breathing and avoid thinking about work.

That's not going to work, is it?

Now, the helpful answer:

  • Look up from the screen every 5 minutes or so.
  • Better yet, bring the smartphone up to eye level. Ok, you won't look that cool, but at least you won't be in pain.
  • Do some easy neck stretches and exercises (see below for 3 stretches).

Neck Stretch #1: Chin Tuck

Move your chin towards your chest, holding for 5 seconds as you feel a comfortable stretch from your neck to the base of your skull.

Repeat 10 times.

Neck Stretch #2: Side Bending

Tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear close to the shoulder. You may use your hand to pull your head farther into the stretch. Hold 20 seconds.

Bring your head back to the center, and then tilt it to the left, again holding 20 seconds.

Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Neck Stretch #3: Side-to-Side Head Rotation

Rotate your chin towards your right shoulder. Hold 20 seconds. You may use your hand to push your head farther into the stretch.

Bring your head back to the center, and then rotate it to the left, again holding 20 seconds.

Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Ditch the Smartphone Sometimes: It Could Help Your Neck

Neck pain isn't a status symbol. Never letting go of your smartphone doesn't make you a better worker, despite what your boss says. Take care of your body, and do what you can to avoid neck pain, even if it means disconnecting from a constantly connected high-tech world.

Updated on: 03/08/16
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