Tech Neck

Is the increased use of technology having a long-term effect on our health? The short answer is yes!

New technology has its benefits but it is also increasing the rate of ‘Tech Neck’. I think we have all noticed a dramatic change in the amount of time we and our children, spend in front of the television, on the computer or smart phones.

Sitting or standing for long periods with our head bent forward can lead to early wear and tear on the cervical spine.

This poor posture, affectionately known as ‘Tech Neck’ can lead to inflammation of neck tissue, muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs and over time can cause permanent change in the neck’s natural curve.

When ybowling ballou think about it, it makes sense.

The average human head weighs between 4.5 – 5.5kg, about the weight of a ten pin bowling ball. In its optimum position directly above the cervical spine, the head places low forces on the cervical spine. As the head bends forward, its centre of gravity changes relative to the spine and as a result the forces on the cervical spine are increased.

A recent study by Dr Kenneth Hansraj (2014), Chief of Spine Surgery in New York measured these forces and the results make you want to sit up straight…literally!

In his study Dr Hansraj found that at a 15-degree angle of forward head tilt the weight on the cervical spine increased to 12.2kg. At 30 degrees, the weight increased to 18kgs and at 45 degrees, 22.2 kgs. At 60 degrees, Hansraj found that the effective head weight was 27.2kgs. That is like carrying a suitcase or sack of potatoes around on your neck for an hour or two per day.

In his article DSource: Hansraj, K (2014) Surgical Technology International XXVr Hansraj pointed out that over a year this translates to at least an extra 700 hours of excessive and unwanted forces placed on the neck.

For teenagers or others who traditionally spend longer hours on computers and mobile phones, this could equate to 1400-5000 hours every year.


So what can be done about Tech Neck?

To prevent long-term damage, try these few key principles.

1. Take a break
Every 30 mins.  This should involve getting up and walking around the room which allows for spinal tissues to be exercised, reducing postural strain.

2. Ergonomic set up
Place your monitor at arm’s length and make sure your eyes are level with the top of the screen. On smartphones hold them up and look down with your eyes, not your head.

3. Exercise
Try these 2 exercises to relieve neck tension.

Chin Tuck
Sitting up straight, head above your spine and eyes forward, slide your chin backwards until you feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for 5 seconds. Release slowly and repeat x 5. Do a set of these 4-5 times per day.

Neck Rotation
In the same seated posture, rotate your chin around in line withyour right shoulder (don’t lift your shoulder up).  Hold for 5-10 seconds then slowly rotate your chin around toward your left shoulder. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat  x 3 each side.

 4. Posture Assessment
If you are having ongoing neck pain, stiffness, headaches or feel that you have chronic poor posture, have your posture assessed and treated by a physiotherapist to help you prevent long term damage.

  5. Clinical Pilates
Clinical pilates on the reformer is an excellent treatment for improving your spinal alignment including optimum head/neck posture. Exercises on the reformer should be targeted to your specific needs.

Source: Hansraj, K (2014) Surgical Technology International XXV