If you stop and think about it, rapid changes in computer and telecommunications technology have revolutionized how we work and connect with each other.
Not only can we now quickly and easily manipulate complex data that would have previously taken days to accomplish, we can also now instantly share it with millions of people all around the world.
In fact, more than 4 billion people around the world will send almost 19 billion text messages in just one day.1 Furthermore, almost 4 billion people will send out 269 billion emails every single day.2 It should not be surprising that Americans lead the pack by sending out approximately half of those text messages, as well as the majority of emails.1,2
While all those texts and emails have provided us with easier access to information that we can use to improve the quality of our work and personal lives, there is a price to be paid. You’ve probably seen it show up in your office in the form of patients who seem unable to separate themselves from their mobile device, even while in your waiting room or on your roller table.
Their heads are down all the time, with their shoulders hunched as they are texting on their phones or scrolling through their messages on social media. Keeping the head and shoulders in this position for prolonged periods can lead to what is now referred to as tech neck.
What causes it, and how can it be alleviated?
1. Pain in the neck
One of the main signs of tech neck is a stiff or painful neck. This is caused by spending most of the time with the neck in a downward position while looking at the phone or laptop computer.
Keeping it in this position actually puts additional weight onto the spine. In some cases as much as 60 pounds of pressure may be added.3
Tell your patients to hold their phone in such a way so as they won’t be tilting their head down as much. Gentle neck stretches may also help.
2. Shouldering the burden
In addition to neck pain from texting on a cell phone, the other tell tale sign of tech neck is shoulder pain.3 Because phones are small, many people end up hunching their shoulders in order to hold the phone in one hand while texting with the other.
Improper ergonomics while sitting in front of an office computer can also lead to hunching over the keyboard.4
Your patients should give their shoulders a break by stretching them out periodically and practicing gentle shoulder rolls, both forward and backward.
Headaches can be common either from tilting the head down to read the display on cell phones or from having the head too far forward over the shoulders while reading a computer monitor.3,4 Both of these positions will leave the head over-balanced, which may trigger headaches.
Suggest that your patients lift their phones up to eye level and re-adjust their work environment so that they are sitting upright with the computer monitor at eye level.4
4. All thumbs
Tingling or numb thumbs can occur with cell phones because that is the finger most often used for texting. If your patients hunch over their phone, they are pinching the nerves leading down the arms to the hands and fingers.3
Suggest your patients shake out their hands, wriggle their fingers, and do gentle wrist rolls from time to time. Numb or tingling hand and fingers can also happen with a keyboard if the forearms and wrists are not properly supported.
There are ergonomic wrist supports that your patients can use with their keyboards to place the wrists in a neutral position.4
5. The eyes have it
Spending an excessive amount of time staring at a computer screen or phone display can cause blurry vision from glare. In addition, when we are focused on our tasks, we do not blink as often, so the eyes become dry, which can also lead to blurriness.
The end result from not seeing as clearly will be even more of a tendency to hunch over the phone or move the head even further forward toward the computer monitor, which compounds the problem of tech neck.4
Your patients will benefit from taking a tech break to rest the eyes for five to 10 minutes, along with use of lubrication drops. Reading glasses may also help for older patients.
There is no doubt that advances in technology, such as smart phones and personal computers have revolutionized how we communicate and interact with the world around us. However, there are drawbacks to all of our high tech devices.
However, if we learn to take breaks and pace out the amount of time we spend on the phone or computer, we can hopefully prevent conditions such as tech neck from either starting or getting worse.
- 73 texting statistics that answer all your questions.com Accessed 8/27/2017.
- Email Statistics Report 2017-2021. Radicati Group. Accessed 8/27/2017.
- Signs of tech neck. Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. Accessed 8/27/20187.
- “Text neck” and other tech troubles. Accessed 8/27/2017.