Why Technology is a Pain in the Neck (and how to fix it)
Our world moves fast these days, predominantly due to the rapid expansion of technology. Modern advances in technology are a blessing and a bane. The world has never been more interconnected and instantaneous, yet that comes at the cost of never being able to truly unplug.
It’s hard not to be guilty of being glued to our gadgets. Putting aside the fact that we have the world wide web at our fingertips, one little square of glass and plastic can act as our alarm clock, calculator, notebook, calendar, pedometer, and personal taxi summoner.
Whether you use a smartphone (or laptop or ipad) for your profession or entertainment, it’s beginning to change the way our brains work, the way we conduct business, socialize, communicate, and even our physiology.
The benefits of technology are often debated, with some claiming that we’re losing touch with real world values the more we center around a virtual lifestyle, but nothing protests modern technology more than our own bodies.
The term “text neck” or “tech neck” has cropped up to describe that aching discomfort we experience from looking down at our devices for prolonged periods. The head juts forward, increasing stress on the neck, and the shoulders roll forward, causing the muscles in the chest to tighten.
The human head weighs around 10lbs, so that’s a lot of extra pressure added to our neck for every inch we tilt our head forward. Staring down at screens compresses and tightens the muscles, tendons and ligaments in front of the neck, while lengthening the back of the neck. Overtime, this can begin to alter the natural curvature in the cervical spine.
This chronic straining at the top of our spine can bring about a host of discomfort. Your upper back will feel overall achy. You may experience headaches or migraines, and compressing nerves in the neck by looking down may cause numbness or tingling in your fingers.
It seems we won’t be returning to the days of phonebooks and rolodexes any time soon, so simply stepping away from our devices isn’t the simplest option. Fortunately, there are some habits and exercises we can implement to reduce the strain and strengthen muscle imbalances.
-Maintain good posture. Sit up tall, allowing the shoulders to relax down away from your ears, while the crown of your head elongates toward the ceiling. Try to keep your low back relaxed.
-Situate your screens at eye level to help eliminate that forward head tilt.
-Try to limit your electronic usage (ask yourself if you really need to be mindlessly scrolling again.) Every hour take a 1-2 minute break to stretch your neck and shoulders.
-Place a tightly rolled hand-towel under your neck (in the natural curve at the top of your spine- not under your head.) Lay back and relax for 15-30 minutes.
*No equipment is needed except a small rolled up towel
- Chin Tuck: Press your head back making your neck flush with your spine and slightly tucking your chin (basically creating a double chin.) Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
- Towel Roll Neck Extension: Place a rolled up towel at the top of the neck- not on the skull- and hold it firmly for support. Gently tilt your head up, and allow the ends of the towel to follow with your gaze.
- Exaggerated Head Stretches: To improve extension, flexion and rotation in the neck, stretch the head in various directions. Look up and down. Reach each ear to the corresponding shoulder. Turn your chin towards each shoulder. Feel free to perform these several times throughout the day.
- Shoulder Blade Pinch: Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle at your sides. Roll your shoulders up, back and down. Now rotate your forearms out and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
- Doorway Pectoral Stretch: Depending on how wide the space is, you can stretch both or one arm at a time. Stand with your shoulder next to the door frame. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the edge. Lean forward, allowing the shoulders to roll back and feeling a stretch in your chest. You can move your elbows to various heights to feel the stretch deeply in different places.
- Open Elbow Release: You can perform this stretch sitting or standing. Place your hands on the back of your head with the elbows splayed open like wings. Sit up tall and gently lean back, shining the chest up.
- Hands Clasped Lift: Interlace the fingers behind your back. Roll the shoulders back and down. Lean back slightly, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and lift your chest up.
- Prone Arm Raises: Lay on your stomach with the legs extended behind you and arms stretched out like the letter “T” with thumbs up. Allow the rest of your body to remain heavy on the mat while you lift your arms off the floor a few inches, then relax. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
Additional resource: 7 Exercises You Should Do Absolutely Everyday