Tech Neck: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Exercise and an ergonomic office setup can keep work from being a pain in the neck.

Written by Victoria Gegalow
Published on Apr. 13, 2023
 Tech Neck: What It Is and How to Prevent It
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Do you spend hours slumped over a computer all day, then take a break only to spend hours hunched over your phone? If so, you may have or be at risk for tech neck. 

What Is Tech Neck?

Tech neck is strain on neck muscles and the spine caused by repeatedly looking down at phone, laptop and tablet screens. Signs and symptoms include aches, pains and stiffness in the neck and shoulder region, as well as headaches and tingling sensations in the arms and fingers. 

Tech neck is, quite literally, pain in the neck and shoulders caused from the strain of slumping or hunching over electronic devices all day. As a neurodivergent person, I am at a particularly high risk for developing tech neck. My ADHD can cause me to lock into specific positions while I hyperfocus on a task. I can go as far as holding my breath and tensing all the muscles in my shoulders, jaw and neck as I concentrate. 

Being in this highly concentrated state can cause any body lots of stress, particularly if people are not aware of and proactive with posture and ergonomic office accessories. Use these tips to relieve and prevent tech neck.

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How to Relieve Tech Neck

If you are suffering from discomfort related to tech neck, try these methods for some relief.

 

Use an ice pack and heating pad

Use an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes, then a heating pad for 20 minutes. Ice will reduce swelling and help relieve some of the discomfort you are experiencing. Heat will help increase blood flow to the area.

 

Massage your neck

Self-massage is an excellent way to reduce tension in the neck. Add a small amount of muscle-relaxing cream or peppermint oil to the neck and massage the affected area. My favorite way to do this is with a stone gua sha tool. This will relieve muscle tension and also aid your lymphatic drainage system. 

 

Seek Medical Help

If your tech neck is really bad, consider a visit to your doctor or chiropractor, who might be able to prescribe physical therapy or do an adjustment to relieve the discomfort. 

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How to Prevent Tech Neck

Are you one of the lucky tech-industry employees who hasn’t yet experienced tech neck? Here’s how to keep it that way.

 

Ergonomics

Long story short: Elevate your workstation and get a better chair. One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent tech neck is by elevating your screens. Invest in a sit-to-stand desk or buy a laptop stand that allows for height adjustments. Optimal screen height is at or slightly below eye level. 

You can also buy stands for your phone and tablets for use at home. An ergonomic chair is also paramount. You want to be able to lean your head back to temporarily relieve the load from your neck.

 

Stretch and take breaks

One of the best ways to reduce strain on the neck is to take frequent breaks, at least once every two hours, throughout the day. During this time, get out of your chair, away from your screens and move your body. If possible, go for a short walk outside.

Stretch at your desk between breaks. Take 30 seconds to one minute to close your eyes, drop your shoulders and take some deep breaths. To further ease the tense area, do some gentle dynamic stretches such as looking left and right or up and down.

 

Get your eyes checked

Your computer screen should optimally be an arm’s length away. If you are having a hard time seeing from that distance, it may be time for glasses. Poor vision may cause you to squint your eyes and get closer to the screen to see better. This can lead to pain and tension as well as misalignment of the spine when untreated.

 

Exercise 

A resistance training program done three to six days per week will greatly improve your overall posture and help reduce tension in the body. When training, make sure to emphasize core training and overall back strength. 

Supporting your spine with muscle development of your core and back will greatly reduce the load placed on your neck placing you in better alignment and overall posture naturally.

Daily movement can lower cortisol-induced tension and release endorphins, which lead to the reduction of stress and pain naturally.

When at the office, try stomach vacuums to improve core strength while working. To do this, first exhale all of your air, then try pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then release. Do this 20 times for one session. This can be done two to four times per day to optimize core strength.

Remember: You do not need to specifically work out your neck. This may only add to the problem of the overworked and tense area.

 

Mind Your Mental Health

People working in tech are greatly impacted by hustle culture. We are typically overachievers who rely on external validation such as success at work to feel worthy. 

This often leads to an unhealthy work-life balance. With so many of us accepting this overexertion as normal, we find ourselves burned out, exhausted, overwhelmed and feeling horrible in both our minds and bodies.

 

Prioritize sleep 

A good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) will improve your mental health by replenishing your adrenal system. Your body repairs itself during sleep. Sleep totaling fewer than six hours greatly reduces your body’s ability to repair and also diminishes your ability to regulate your emotions.

Follow good sleep hygiene, including no screen time for an hour before bed, sleep in a space with no sound or light disturbances, and keep the room temperature at approximately 65°F (18.3°C).

Taking these steps can relieve and help prevent tech neck, contribute to better health and wellness overall, and just might make work a little more fun. 

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