Working from home? 5 ways to improve your neck pain.
Smartphone soreness, technology torment, desk discomfort:
In this blog we will explore what Teckneck is, what causes techneck, why is techneck is so common and 5 tips of how to fix techneck. You’re likely reading this blog off your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer and not realising that that you are essentially placing a 27kg weight on your neck.. which is a huge force to put through your cervical spine! What is Techneck? Techneck refers to a RSI, repetitive stress injury or overuse syndrome in the neck. It is caused by prolonged periods of poor neck alignment/poor neck postures resulting in muscular spasms and joint irritation. Techneck usually begins with a relatively mild ache in the neck or upper back but can also present as a sharp pain or stiffness in the neck, with a feeling of being unable to bring your head back to neutral. The symptoms of techneck can worsen pretty quickly, especially if there is some sort of joint dysfunction associated. What causes Techneck? Screen time is become more prominent in our day to day life.
Source: Lonergan ResearchRecent studies have shown that people are spending more than 1/3 of their day, that is approximately 9.4 hours, in front of a screen. From televisions to gaming consoles to computers to laptops to tablets to smart phones… it seems almost impossible to escape them. A lot of these screens are handheld, meaning that for all those hours of use we are looking down and putting huge strain on our neck. Even desktop computers or laptops, when not rigged up ergonomically also put significant strain on our neck. Have a look at the picture below. (note that 60lbs = approx. 27kg) Source: Health Matters Now, imagine having a 27kg weight, the weight of a 9yo child, on your poor neck! Then consider that smartphones alone account for somewhere between 700 – 1400 hours of screen time per year. How many years do you think you could carry a 9yo child on the back of your neck? It is a sure way to long term neck pain and increases your risk of premature arthritis, headaches and disability.
The scary thing is, most people have no idea how long they are spending in an unhealthy neck position nor the extent of the internal damage it is doing. There are numerous muscles and ligaments fighting to hold your neck in the correct position, however teckneck can go undetected for many years as pain is not often experienced until the later stages of techneck. Techneck can cause people to experience some dull aches, headaches or non specific pains – however due to the non-severe nature of the pain, most individuals assume it is just signs of minor muscle tightness/fatigue/psychological stress. Why is Techneck so common? Techneck is ingrained into our daily routine: you don’t even realize you’re doing it!Breakfast. Commute to work. Work. Lunchtime. Work. Commute back home. Exercise. Dinner. Sleep. Each and every one of those activities presents an opportunity to worsen your neckpain . From watching videos on your phone whilst eating breakfast, to scrolling Instagram or the reading the news on your phone on the commute to work, the ill fitted ergonomic set up of your desktop monitor or laptop at work, to more scrolling of social media over lunch, to more reading or video watching on the commute home. You will even notice the gym goers looking down at their phones or small screen tvs on the treadmills… It’s never ending!
How to fix Techneck?
Fixing the problem is going to take some real self-control and will power. But all hope is not lost. Here’s a list of things you can incorporate into your routine in order to reduce exposure to techneck and the injuries that it brings.
1. Listen to podcasts on the commute Instead of reading your iBook off your phone or reading the news – download it! Sit back, in an upright posture with your chin slightly tucked on the train/bus/ferry put your headphones in press play. You might even enjoy the early morning views! 2. Lunchtime is for racking up those daily steps 10,000 steps a day is what is recommended and accounts for approximately 30mins light exercise daily. Walking to and from the photocopier or the coffee room is not enough! 3. Schedule your social media or “scrolling time” Social media and general phone use is addictive. On average, people “pick up” their phone 77 times a day to check for various updates. Set yourself time slots in which you allow phone use. Maybe set yourself 2 hour distraction free blocks before you check social media/non work related things on your phone. 4. When exercising; on a walk or at the gym. Leave your phone! Keeping entirely focused on your workout will keep your mind as well as your body healthy. Both are equally as important. 5. Check in regularly with your Osteopath It is important to keep regular tabs on your techneck and your general spinal health. Ensuring you see your Osteopath on a regular basis can help in maintaining sound neck biomechanics and avoiding any unsuspecting bouts of pain. Sessions will involve hands on techniques applied to the neck and surrounding areas as well as the prescription of at home or at work exercises.