Odds are you’ve heard of the health consequences of too much screen time. Stare at your screen for too long and your eyes will get dry and itchy. Look at your screen before attempting to sleep and get ready for a restless night of interrupted sleep. Add in that the vast majority of screen usage is completed sitting, and you have increased the potential for weight gain and other associated health problems.
One of the less-covered negative aspects of extended screen time is tech neck. While not a technical medical term, tech neck is the very appropriate name for the pain you feel in your upper back and neck after hours on your device. Mainly a result of poor posture, tech neck can have you reaching for painkillers and topical menthol treatments. Although painful, tech neck is avoidable with proper posture.
If you have neck and back pain that extends well past your screen time, interventional pain management may help. David Wu, MD, and the rest of his team can help you get the relief you need. From join pain to headaches, Dr. Wu will make sure you get the help you need to overcome your pain.
How much time do you spend on screens every day? According to a recent Forbes article, probably more than you think. On average, Americans spend up to 12 hours a day in front of their TVs, computers, and smartphones. On the surface, this could be a good thing. The average adult is now able to consume five times more information every day than their counterparts just 50 years ago.
Spend your 12 hours per day with good posture and you’ll avoid tech neck. Unfortunately, good posture often falls by the wayside when you’re looking at screens.
Your head is heavier than you think. The average adult head weighs 10-12 pounds. Your neck is designed to hold up your head in its normal upright position, where the pressure on the muscles is the same as the actual weight.
As you look down, a combination of gravity and pressure make your head exponentially heavier. At a 45 degree angle, which is pretty common for smartphone usage, your neck is tasked with holding up the equivalent of 49 pounds. Increase that angle 60 degrees, which would occur sitting with a computer in your lap, and your neck muscles are contracting to support 60 pounds of weight. After a few hours of supporting six times the weight your neck is designed to hold, your neck is bound to be tired and sore.
Your first thought when trying to prevent tech neck may be to sit straight as an arrow in your office chair or couch. Unfortunately, this is actually counter-productive, as it puts too much pressure on the discs in your back. Instead, try to lean back at about a 25-30 degree angle. You can also try the following:
If you spend the bulk of your day in front of a screen, make sure you take a quick break every 30 minutes. Just a minute of standing and stretching will help your neck.
Move your monitor up to be more at eye level so you can avoid looking down. If you have the option of a standing desk, make the switch.
If you don’t have one, try to get an office chair with a headrest. Touch your head against the headrest to take weight off of your neck.
Spread out your screen time whenever possible. At work, schedule meetings or lunches to break up long periods of time spent in front of the screen. At home, switch back and forth between screen time and chores to give your neck a break.
You don’t have to suffer with tech neck. David Wu, MD, and his friendly staff can help treat any pain you have and guide you on how to use your devices properly. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.