Do you have “tech neck”? Do you know what this malady is?
I’ve recently learned that tech neck is an often painful condition caused by lowering the head to look downward at mobile devices for long periods of time. Anyone who spends time texting, using social media, searching the web, looking at maps or playing games on a smartphone or tablet probably understands this quickly.
Symptoms include neck and shoulder pain and chronic headaches.
Doctors say that lowering the head like this adds up to 60 pounds of pressure on the neck vertebrae and muscles. I also heard it described as the equivalent of two bowling balls hanging around the neck. Ouch.
While my son, Chandler, and I were having Sunday coffee a few weeks ago, a television reporter happened into the coffee shop looking for someone to interview about this condition.
Although we don’t normally use our devices while we’re having coffee together, Chandler agreed to chat with the reporter on camera. He ended up on the nightly news, talking about how he does sometimes feel pain in his neck and shoulders from hunching over his technology.
I think I have it too. At work, I have a nice, large screen on my desk, squarely in front of my face. But at home, I use my smartphone and iPad for researching, writing, socializing, reading email, paying bills and playing Solitaire.
For example, at this moment, I’m writing this column on my iPad.
The strain in my neck is telling me I need to do things a little differently, and perhaps relinquish some tech time for more real time.
In researching tech neck, which was first identified, as best I can tell, in 2009, I found that there are many exercises suggested to strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles to help alleviate the pain.
There is also a mobile app for devices to alert the user when the device is in “an unacceptable viewing angle.”
Beyond that, the only cure seems to be to stop using the technology in the head forward position. I’m guessing for most users, including me, that’s an unlikely solution.
However, it occurred to me that what I really need to do is look up. I need to look up and pay more attention to what’s going on around me, where I’m going, both literally and figuratively.
Raising the head and looking up improves one’s overall posture, relieves pressure on the spine, and makes breathing easier.
When chatting with loved ones, friends and neighbors, we need to look up and speak directly to them. Always look someone in the eye when you’re conversing. It shows your interest.
If we’re walking or riding a bike, we definitely need to look up to watch where we’re going.
When we look up, head raised confidently, we somehow begin to feel empowered, encouraged.
Looking up, for those spiritually inclined, lifts one’s eyes toward the heavens. If you believe in God, as I do, you might imagine that he lives up there. Indeed, the Psalmist said “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”
If tech neck is bothering you, and you still must use your devices, at least consider taking time each day to look up. You just never know what you might see.