Guest Blog by Vernon Active Health
Could texting be a pain in the neck? Studies show that adults spend roughly five hours a day looking down at their mobile phones. Add in time spent on a laptop, tablet, or looking at smart watches, and you’ve most likely got a real pain in the neck- known as Tech (or Text) Neck! The average adult head weighs only 10-12 pounds in it’s neutral position, but when your head tilts downwards the strain on your neck dramatically increases. Some estimates say looking straight down at your mobile phone can put an additional 50-60 pounds of pressure on your neck! The next time you are staring at your phone, pay close attention to your posture. Most likely your shoulders hunch forward, your back slouches, and your chin tilts outwards contributing to unwanted strain on your muscles, discs, and joints.
The presence of technology in our lives isn’t going away anytime soon, but there are some measures that can be taken to prevent or lessen the effects of Tech Neck. From a preventive standpoint, limiting the use of mobile devices is the most effective way to reduce the unwanted effects. Consider setting timers or alarms to remind you to take frequent breaks. If limiting your usage is not feasible, elevate your mobile devices using products like smart phone mounts or tablet holders to alleviate the need to look down at your device. When holding a device, practice good posture by holding your device at eye level while keeping your shoulders relaxed and your back straight.
Strengthening and stretching exercises can also be beneficial when trying to minimize the effects of Tech Neck. Strengthening exercises encourage the head and neck to maintain correct alignment while stretching exercises help alleviate the pressure and strain on the muscles.
Try the following:
Chin Tuck: To perform the exercise for the first time, it is typically recommended that patients stand with the spine up against a door jamb and the feet out about 3 inches from the bottom of the door jamb.
- Keeping the spine against the door jamb, pull the upper back and head backward until the head touches the door jamb. It is important to make sure that the chin is down so that the head is pulled straight back and not looking up.
- Hold the head against the door jamb for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this 10 times.
After initially performing the chin tuck exercise in a door jamb and becoming comfortable with it, the exercise can eventually be done standing or sitting without a door jamb.
Chin tucks can be done five to seven times throughout the day, such as while sitting in the car or at the desk at work. The repetition of this exercise throughout the day also helps develop good postural habits. It is especially important to perform this exercise when the neck and shoulder blades first begin to hurt.
Exaggerated Nod: Sitting up straight with your shoulders relaxed and mouth closed, tilt your head back to look up at the ceiling. Open your mouth and bring your head back a little further if you can. Slowly close your mouth again keeping your head tilted back to stretch the front of your neck.
Cat-Cow: Start on the ground on all fours, keeping your shoulders in line with your wrists and your hips in line with your knees. Using your abs, push your spine upwards and tuck your tailbone underneath your hips. Drop your head to feel a full stretch through your neck and upper back. Slowly return to neutral before tilting your pelvis downwards and lifting your head towards the ceiling. This position should draw your shoulders away from your ears, stretching the top of your shoulders and front of your neck.
Bird-Dog: Start on the ground on all fours looking down at the ground. Using your core, extend your left leg outwards while reaching your right arm forward. Slowly return to neutral, and repeat using the right leg and left arm. Continue alternating this movement being mindful that your low back does not arch and your head stays facing down.
Corner Stretch: Stand approximately two feet away from a corner and place each arm against the wall with your elbows bent. Lean forward to feel a stretch in your upper back and shoulders to relieve tension.