You have probably noticed by now that we are obsessed with our mobile devices. The technology we hold in the palm of our hands not only keeps us connected, but it is a portal to the universe. From academic research to finding a new boyfriend, it can all be done on your phone these days. That’s pretty cool. What’s not cool is the deviation it’s causing in our necks, spines and shoulders. This compromised posture is being called “tech neck” and is a direct result of us looking down at our devices too much.
What is Tech Neck?
It’s a current and common condition that is caused from looking down at your devices too much throughout the day, which causes you to round your shoulders and push your head forward. You may feel it with a stiff neck, knotted shoulders and headaches. Doctors say that the unnatural posture strains muscles in the neck and chest area and left unaddressed, it can increase the risk of pinched nerves, bone spurs and degenerative disk disease. Less painful, but more alarming, this condition this condition can lead to a prematurely rounded or hunched back.
The good news is that by being aware of it and taking a few corrective actions, we can minimize and correct the negative (and unattractive) impacts of tech neck.
I first heard the term this month when reading my IDEA Fitness Journal that I get monthly because of my ACE certification. It is an awesome resource full of the latest trends and research in the field of fitness and nutrition. The term resonated with me because I am terribly guilty of looking down too much. I look down at my computer or phone all day, then when I’m walking (and even when I run!), I look at my feet for some reason. These are all bad habits that I’m working on correcting. Hence today’s post! If I have it, you or someone you know probably does too.
Do you have Tech Neck?
If you are addicted to your smart phone and find yourself looking down more than you did in the past, it might be worth evaluating your current posture. Because this position is so common now, it might feel comfortable and completely natural and you may not even be aware of this unflattering curvature.
How to test for Tech Neck:
The best way to know is to physically see what your spine, shoulder and neck are doing right now. A camera and either a self-timer or a friend is required here. You’ll need three pictures:
1. You standing, holding your phone and reading a post.
2. Put the phone down and just stand.
3. Use what you know about good posture and stand up straight.
Is there a big difference between #2 and #3? Even if there is a small difference, it’s time to start being aware of this deviation and taking corrective action before it gets worse.
Exercises to prevent or correct Tech Neck
I liked this particular article from the journal because it not only called this common problem into light, it provided four exercises you could add to your routine to minimize and correct these deviations that tech neck is causing. And the good news, while some of these are uncomfortable, they feel really good, especially when you’re done.
Exercise #1: Bent-Over Reverse Fly
Stand with feet shoulder width apart with or without dumbbells in hand. Tighten your core and bend from the hips to a 45 degree angle. Pull arms away from the midline of your body, elbows slightly bent and return to starting position. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps with light weight.
Exercise #2: Chest Expansion
Stand in a wide leg straddle with your toes forward and all four corners of your feet firmly on the ground. Clasp your hands behind your low back, gaze upward, push your chest forward and lift your hands away from your hips. Tighten your core and bend forward from the hips to lower your head towards the floor and your arms towards the sky. Hold for 4-8 full breath cycles.
Exercise #3: Prone Breast Stroke
Lay facedown on a yoga mat with your elbows bent and your forehead resting on your hands and tighten your core. Lift your chest to extend your spine. Hold a neutral neck position as your keep your biceps near your ears with extended arms. Circle your arms to your hips and return to start position. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps with light weight.
Exercise #4: Wall Sit
Sit comfortably against a wall with three points of contact: butt, shoulders and head. Push your palms together and lift your arms overhead until your hands touch the wall and bend your elbows until they also touch the wall. Perform snow angel arms 4-8 times.