Tech neck is a term that’s increasingly coming into our vocabulary as we dive deeper into a tech-driven, hyper-connected culture. The term stems from extended periods of time spent typing, texting, or peering at your phone, iPad, or laptop screens, head titled downward at a 45-degree angle or so. And the results are not pretty, causing everything from neck lines/wrinkles and skin laxity (i.e., saggy jowls) to headaches and a hunched back in the short term and mood disorders and permanent spinal damage in the long run.* Tech neck truly is, pardon the pun, a pain in the neck.
We broached the subject of tech neck in our recently released Spafinder Wellness 365™ Global Spa & Wellness Trends Forecast, under the “Parenting Well: Serious Spa & Wellness for Kids” trend. Kate Russel, based at the 1617Lab in Santa Monica, was featured in this trend, and was kind enough to elaborate further for our feature on The 365.
“The best way to avoid tech neck is put down the device and move,” Kate says. “Taking a walk, even to the coffeepot, relieves the main causes of tech neck—prolonged sitting, eye strain, and poor ergonomics.”
Kate’s following tips and exercises to avoid tech neck are good for both adults and children (as this ailment affects all!).
- Look away from the screen and vary how near/far you look. “We often forget about the eyes, but they are very important to a comfortable neck,” Kate shares. “Eyes are strained more by close viewing than by distant viewing.
“When our eyes are focused at such a close distance and our arms are closed in front of our bodies all the time we begin to get stuck in that position.It is important to move the body in every possible direction to maintain flexibility—use it or lose it,” she continues.
Tip: Open the arms wide and move them through space, gently twisting, side bending, and arching (both head and spine).
- Placement is important: “Most people hold their device at elbow height and look down at it rather than hold it at eye level. Our heads weight about 12 pounds,” Kate says. “When we’re looking down at our phones, that 12 pounds is being pulled forward and down by gravity, creating neck strain.”
As well, “most people also place their computer monitor too high so they have to tilt their head back to see. Now the 12-pound weight of the head is pushing the cervical vertebrae down into each other instead of resting on top of them,” she remarks.
Tip: The ideal position of the head is looking straight ahead, eye level, with the chin drawn slightly in, so that the space behind the ears lengthens upwards through the crown of the head, Kate shares. This way, “the weight of the head is evenly supported by the spine and the legs.”
These simple activities to relieve tech neck are done while standing. Kate suggests:
- Walk, swinging the arms with the walk and looking far away/around at your surroundings.
- Gently twist side to side to look behind you, allowing the arms to swing with the motion.
- Roll the spine down, head and arms hanging towards the ground as though trying to touch your toes. Hang out at the bottom giving the weight of head and arms to gravity.
- Place your hands behind you (fingers pointing up towards your head, heels of the hands on your bum) on your sacrum and arch the spine. This position helps open the shoulders and support the low back.
Additionally, the following exercises are especially kid friendly, Kate says.
- Squeeze the shoulders up around the ears and then drop them with a big exhale—this “always inspires giggles!” Kate offers.
- Roll down towards touching the toes and shaking the arms, wiggling and making whatever sounds come out as you hang over.
- Lion face: Open the mouth and eyes as wide as possible and exhale from the belly like a silent (or not!) roar.
- Swing the arms in big circles.
*Ward, Victoria. “Children ‘becoming hunchbacks’ due to addiction to smart phones.” The Telegraph. 16 Oct 2015.