We all know the feeling – you catch yourself mid-scroll when you suddenly realise you’ve been hunched over your phone for the past 20 minutes.
Your neck is aching, your head is pounding, your shoulders are tense. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Welcome to the world of tech neck – conditions that are becoming increasingly common as our dependence on technology grows. Convenience has become a double-edged sword and, as much as we rely on our devices to make our lives easier, they can also take their toll on our physical and mental wellbeing.
While it might sound like something that only affects desk-bound office workers or tech-obsessed teenagers, the truth is that we’re all at risk of developing tech neck. Even if you only use your laptop or phone for a couple of hours a day, the cumulative effect of poor posture can be enough to cause pain and discomfort.
We’ve chatted with a provider on Blys Rippy Singh, who has nearly a decade of experience in reflexology and hand-and-foot massage, to get the lowdown on common tech-related injuries and how to avoid them. Here’s what he had to say:
What exactly is tech neck?
“Simply put, it’s poor posture,” cautions Rippy. “Your body has a limited threshold of pressure to bear. Once you cross that, you will cause damage to your muscle and bone.”
When you hunch over your phone or laptop, you put additional strain on your spine and neck muscles, which can lead to pain and inflammation. The condition is also known as ‘text neck’ or ‘computer neck’.
“It’s a repetitive strain injury (RSI) that occurs when you use your devices for long periods of time without taking breaks,” Rippy explains. “Your body wasn’t designed to be in the same position for hours on end.”
While it might not seem like a big deal at the time, this can cause long-term damage to your posture and musculoskeletal system. In severe cases, it can even lead to herniated discs and nerve compression.
What are the symptoms of tech neck?
There are a few tell-tale signs that you might be suffering from tech neck. If you find yourself experiencing any (or all) of the following, it’s time to put your phone down and take a break:
- Generalised aching discomfort in the lower neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Sharp, stabbing pain localised in one spot
- Reduced mobility/stiffness in neck, upper back and shoulders
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers
- Difficulty concentrating
How can I avoid tech neck?
A recent study conducted by Stanford University found that frequent breaks along with correct posture and an ergonomic set-up are the best ways to avoid tech neck.
Rippy seconds this advice, adding that regular stretching and massage can also help to keep your muscles loose and pain-free.
Here are his top 5 tips to prevent tech-related injuries:
1.Use proper posture: When you’re sitting or standing, make sure your spine is in alignment with your head and shoulders. Avoid hunching over or slouching.
“To start with, try and be more aware of your posture when you’re using your phone or laptop,” advises Rippy. “A lot of us have a tendency to hunch over which puts a lot of strain on the neck. It’s crucial to reach a balance of activity and rest.”
2. Take regular breaks: Rippy recommends setting a timer for every 30-40 minutes and, when it goes off, taking a break to move your body and stretch your neck and shoulders.
“Get up and go out for a cup of coffee, get some fresh air,” Rippy suggests. “This will help to release any tension that’s building up in your muscles.”
3. Keep your devices at eye level: This will help to avoid strain on your neck and shoulders. If you’re using a laptop, invest in a laptop stand or prop it up on some books.
4. Use proper ergonomics: Make sure your keyboard, mouse, and screen are all at the correct height and position.
5. Stretch and massage: Regular stretching and massage can help to loosen tight muscles and improve circulation.
“I would recommend some basic stretches like shoulder rolls or neck tilts,” Rippy says. “And if you can, book in for a professional massage once a month. This will help to release any tension that’s built up in your muscles.”
What are some quick fixes for tech neck pain?
If you are experiencing pain, here are a few things you can do to find relief.
- Applying heat or ice packs to the affected area
- Doing some gentle stretches at home – try using objects you have at home to help such as a rolled-up towel or a tennis ball
- Booking in for a professional massage with Blys
If the pain persists, it’s best to consult a doctor or physiotherapist.
While tech neck is a relatively new condition, it’s one that is becoming increasingly common as we all become more reliant on our devices.
By following Rippy’s advice and taking regular breaks, we can all avoid ending up with achy necks and shoulders. Trust us, your body will thank you for it in the long run!
Ready to tap out of tech neck?