Working from home has its perks. You get to avoid the traffic, you can have a more flexible work-life balance, and your commute time is reduced significantly. However, there are some drawbacks as well. One of these is spending too much time hunched in front of your computer screen - which could lead to chronic pain in the neck called tech neck or "text neck."
Tech neck is a term used to refer to the pain in the neck that results from tilting the head over a long period. Tech neck has become more rampant now because of the increase in remote work and the lack of physical activities used when commuting and working in the office daily.
The adverse effects of tech neck include bad posture, jaw pain, and pain or numbness in the arm that may require a surgical operation to rectify.
In this article, we look into the causes of tech neck, its symptoms, why working from home makes us more prone to it, and how we can get rid of tech neck.
What is tech neck?
Tech neck is the result of stressing the neck muscles while using smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. When working on the computer or looking down at your phone, you tilt your neck to access the content on your screen, which makes it carry the weight of your head at uncomfortable angles.
The neck muscles contract to hold your head up and due to the extra strain exerted on the neck over a long period of time, we begin to feel discomfort/pain/soreness around the neck. The symptoms include headaches, stiff necks, neck spasms, and pain between your neck and shoulder blades. There are also situations where some will find it difficult to look up after looking down a long time.
Typically, the pain grows over time and it might go away after a few days or weeks, or it might go away and come back sporadically over the years. The stiff neck and neck soreness could spread down into your mid-back and shoulder blades, maybe even into your arms. It can be sharp at times when you move around or just a dull ache.
With your head constantly bent forward, your posture becomes worse as your upper back muscles stretch out to compliment the weakening muscles in the front of your body. Your head feels 10x heavier and because you're constantly bent forward, breathing will become difficult and you might start having panic problems.
Why does working from home make us more prone to tech neck?
The rise of remote work has offered many benefits to both employers and employees, but they come with a downside. The modern workplace is filled with tech neck victims who have been working from home for too long without any breaks or stretch sessions.
The increased number of cases may be attributed to prolonged time looking on the computer screen at low eye level. This is a common habit when working from home since we often leave our laptops on our laps, beds or low tables.
Moreover, some people are opting out of physical activity altogether because it would interfere with their workload. They spend more hours having online meetings, looking into screens that cause pain in the necks when they should instead take care of their body by taking regular exercise.
The muscles in the back and neck, as well as ligaments, are forced to work overtime while we sit for long periods of time. This leads to muscle imbalances which can result in pain or soreness along the spine from C-spine (cervical spine) all the way down into L-scapula.
How to get rid of tech neck
Tech Neck can get pretty nasty when it is left unattended— headaches, muscle stiffness & soreness. But with these simple steps, you should be able to get rid of tech neck before it becomes unbearable!
⏳ Take breaks to stretch or move around
It's important that you not stay hunched over and at a computer for extended periods of time as this can lead to muscle stiffness, soreness in the neck, lower back pain etc. Take frequent stretching/walking breaks throughout the day to relax your body and keep the muscles in your neck and back from being stiffened.
🧘♀️ Use a foam roller to stretch and relieve any tension in the neck, back or shoulder muscles
Some people also recommend using tennis balls and rolling your head over them for additional relief. One way to keep your neck from being stiffened is by stretching it out regularly throughout the day. Maintaining a good head posture will help prevent tech neck.
🤸♀️ Exercise to relieve and strengthen these muscles
By performing specific exercises like:
Bird dog— Here you'd begin by resting on all fours with your palms on the floor directly underneath your shoulders before lifting your left hand and your right leg till they're parallel to the floor. You'd hold the pose for about 10 seconds before switching.
📱 Take time off your phone
Although this way might be difficult, one sure way to avoid getting tech neck continuously is by taking a break from your phone and giving yourself some space away from them. Research has found that people who are on their devices all day experience more muscle tension in their necks than those with less exposure because they use them so much throughout the day.
🖥 Keep your workstation comfortable and tidy
Put your phone or computer screen at your eye level so that you can work more comfortably without constantly having to look down at it or reach for objects every now and then. You could also invest in an ergonomic chair to help maintain good posture.
Preventing tech neck & WFH burnout
Working from home is a great way to stay safe and be more productive amidst the pandemic. However, it can be hard on your body if you don’t take care of yourself.
Tech neck occurs when the head and spine are held forward for long periods of time creating strain on the muscles that connect to them. This leads to stiffness, pain and numbness – not exactly what we want while sitting at a desk all day!
Luckily there are ways to prevent this symptom before it starts by taking regular breaks throughout the day including stretching exercises or even just standing up every so often. And as always make sure you have good posture whether you're working from home or not.
It may sound like common sense, but without these precautions, tech neck will become a bigger problem.