The Dangers of Tech Neck

The Dangers of Tech Neck

No matter how large or small your head, or how thick or thin your neck, if you habitually bend your head to read a screen — or even a book — you’re in danger of developing “tech neck.” Tech neck is the not-very-technical term that describes how the weight of even a normal-sized head can inflict damage on the strongest of necks.

The average head weighs a full 10-12 pounds. Lean it forward by just 45 degrees, and the weight on your cervical spine (the part of your spine cord that connects to your head and resides in your neck) increases to about 60 pounds. Ouch.

But since just about everyone has it these days, tech neck is no big deal, right? Wrong. Your neck isn’t built to withstand 60 pounds of pressure for hours at a time.

At the Ohio Institute for Comprehensive Pain Management in Centerville, Ohio, expert pain specialist and founder Dr. Mervet Saleh advises her patients to straighten up and take breaks to avoid the dangers of tech neck. If you don’t change your habits, the minor pain in your neck could evolve into something more serious — and even permanent.

Tech neck can sprain and strain your neck

You’ve probably sprained your ankle at least once and know how painful it can be. A mild sprain can mean just a few days of downtime, but a complex sprain can take months.

The ligaments in your neck can also get sprained when you slouch and bend your head. That 60 pounds of constant weight pulls on and weakens your tendons over time. The weight also stretches (strains) muscles and tendons. A neck sprain or strain makes it painful to move your head, limiting your ability to do everyday tasks.

Tech neck can slip a disc

Your vertebral discs are cushiony, rubbery discs that separate the vertebrae in your spine, preventing them from rubbing and grinding against one another. Over time, your discs tend to deteriorate, first thinning and then even rupturing. Putting pressure on your head by bending it forward also stresses your vertebral discs, increasing the risk that they’ll slip or rupture.

Slipped discs can irritate nearby nerves, causing pain that radiates down your arms. Deteriorated discs also can’t absorb shocks to your spine, and can’t protect your vertebrae from grinding painfully and uncomfortably together when you move.

Tech neck can lead to cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is the truly technical-sounding term for a pinched nerve in your neck. One of the eight pairs of cervical nerve roots in your neck can become irritated by a slipped disc, bone spur (often a result of arthritis), or by nearby inflamed tissues, such as those irritated tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

If you develop cervical radiculopathy, more than your neck might hurt. You might experience pain, numbness, and tingling sensations that radiate down your shoulders to your arms, hands, and fingers.

Tech neck distorts your spine

Your spinal cord has a gentle S-shape that allows you the flexibility to bend in a variety of directions. However, leaning your head forward over your devices distorts the curve of your cervical spine and hunches your shoulders, too, making you look older and, yes, “hunchbacked.” The technical term for a hunched neck and shoulders is kyphosis.

If you don’t treat your kyphosis by improving your posture and strengthening your neck and back with stretching and strengthening exercises, you could develop pain and other symptoms. Severe kyphosis can even make your chest cave inward and interfere with your ability to breathe properly.

Tech neck is treatable

If you have mild neck, shoulder, or arm pain from tech neck, Dr. Saleh may recommend lifestyle adjustments and exercises to help you regain and maintain a healthy posture. To reverse tech neck, try:

If you still have a stiff, creaky, or painful neck, Dr. Saleh recommends you come to the Ohio Institute for Comprehensive Pain Management for a thorough examination, tests, and treatment. Depending on your needs, she may custom-design a treatment plan that includes:

Just because tech neck is a widespread cause of pain in your neck doesn’t mean you have to ignore it. Take care of your neck by calling us today for a neck pain consultation, or use the online form to contact the office anytime.

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