Have you ever had neck pain creep up, but you weren't sure what was causing it? That pain might be the result of using your phone or laptop too much. Straining your neck in this way can lead to long-term issues if you don't take care of the problem now. Luckily, good ergonomics in the workplace can help. Here's a quick look at the causes of neck pain and what you can do to alleviate the problem.
Tech Neck Can Be a Real Problem
"Tech neck" occurs when you experience neck strain from craning your head downward too much. The average adult head only weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, so holding your head in a neutral position puts very little stress on your neck. But tilting your head just 15 degrees forward can make your neck feel like it's supporting up to 27 pounds, according to The Spine Hospital. Increased tilting leads to even greater stress. Over time, minor neck pain can turn into a bigger problem, possibly even leading to herniated disks that require surgery. Other problems might include headaches, pinched nerves and bone spurs.
But how do you know when the pain is more than just an annoyance? Look at your profile in the mirror. If your ears aren't lined up with your shoulders, you might be slouching too much over your mobile devices, suggests USA Today. Any time you have persistent neck pain, it doesn't hurt to visit a doctor, who can tell you if the problem might turn into something more severe.
Take Breaks and Do Stretches
It's not feasible to give up your mobile devices completely, but there are things you can do to ease the strain. Whether you're on a laptop or phone, always be sure to take mini breaks every 15 minutes or so to rest your neck, recommends The Spinal Hospital. Then, every hour, take a longer break and go for a walk or do a different task.
Consider adding neck stretches into your breaks. For example, you can do shoulder shrugs or slowly turn your head from side to side. MyNeck has an app on iOS and Android that focuses specifically on neck exercises. You might also want to try out yoga in your spare time.
Look for Ergonomic Solutions
Seek out ergonomic alternatives. For example, if you're using an iPhone and a Mac, answer your text messages on your desktop when you can. When you're using your laptop, place it on a surface that sits closer to your line of sight, so you don't have to slouch. That means working from a desk rather than keeping your laptop in your lap. At work, invest in a laptop stand that elevates your laptop closer to eye level, cutting down on neck strain.
As for your phone, try holding it to your line of sight while you're texting, rather than crouching over your screen. Ergonomic chairs that encourage you to hold your neck in a healthy position can also help. Businesses can offer ergonomic furniture that helps alleviate tech neck, such as height-adjustable desks. A focus on ergonomics in the workplace really can help.
Neck pain from mobile devices is more common than you might think, but that doesn't make it any less of a concern. See a doctor if your symptoms are getting worse, and consider implementing these neck-saving tactics right away.