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What to Do About Tech Neck

It’s estimated that people spend up to four hours a day texting or scrolling on their smartphone, usually with their head in a bent position. Though your smartphone and other handheld devices make it easy for you to send emails and text messages and keep up with the latest news no matter where you are, the convenience may come at the expense of your neck.

The constant bending of your neck so you can read, reply, or scroll places a lot of pressure on your cervical spine and supportive muscles. And it may be the source of your headaches and sore muscles at the end of the day. 

At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Germantown, and Waldorf, Maryland, our pain management and orthopedic experts, Dr. Matthew Roh and Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi, are seeing more and more patients with neck pain complaints. We want you to know how tech neck may be contributing to your discomfort and what you can do about it.

Your head, neck, and posture

Your neck, also called your cervical spine, is the most flexible portion of your spine, allowing you to move your head in all directions. It’s also strong, supporting the weight of your head.

Your neck and the rest of your spine is curved in such a way that helps distribute the weight of your head, as well as your body, to prevent excess stress on any one area of your spine. 

Tilting your head down to read a book, look at your computer, or scroll through your phone is one of the many functions of your neck, but too much time in this position places extra strain on the muscles, vertebrae, ligaments, and tendons in your neck. 

When your head is in a neutral position — head up straight and shoulders back — it places about 10-12 pounds of weight stress on your neck. However, when your neck is bent, even as little as 15 degrees, your cervical spine feels as though your head weighs 27 pounds.

The more you bend your neck, the heavier your head gets. The more frequently you bend your neck, the more strain you place on your spine and the supportive tissues. 

Unintended consequences of tech neck

With all that time you spend with your head bent over a device or shoulders hunched working at your computer, it’s no wonder your neck muscles feel so achy at the end of the day. These muscle aches may even turn into muscle spasms or headaches.

Though these problems may resolve on their own with a little self-massage or over-the-counter pain medication, your bent head may cause more permanent damage over time that leads to chronic neck pain. 

As you get older, the structures that make up your spine degenerate, which leads to many of the health complications responsible for chronic neck and back pain, such as herniated discs and pinched nerves. 

The extra strain placed on your neck and its structures may accelerate the degenerative process and increase your risk of developing these chronic pain issues at an earlier age. 

What to do about tech neck

Though advances in technology may be taking their toll on your neck, you don’t have to give up the tools that make your life convenient. However, being aware of the potential consequences your head positioning has on your neck may push you to make changes that prevent chronic neck problems.

If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of tech neck, we can help. Our experienced orthopedic team conducts a comprehensive evaluation to assess your neck to confirm or rule out any structural changes that may be contributing to your symptoms.

We then design a personalized treatment plan to alleviate your pain and prevent a recurrence. Some of the treatment options for tech neck include:

If your neck pain is severe, we may suggest trying a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit, epidural steroid injections, or nerve blocks. We also perform minimally invasive procedures to repair or replace damaged discs and treat pinched nerves. 

Computers, tablets, and smartphones make it easy for you to stay connected to your world. However, they also keep your neck in a bent position for a prolonged period of time that may lead to chronic neck problems. 

To learn more about tech neck and what you can do to treat or prevent it, contact us today by calling the office nearest you or booking an appointment online.

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