Due to prolonged widespread usage of smartphones and other handheld devices a condition called ‘techneck’ is a common complaint in our present day. The drawing below highlights the weight of an average human head in an upright erect position. It highlights the increase in weight and force through the neck region when a forward flexed head position is adopted.
Which position best reflects your own posture while using your smart phone? Which position reflects that of your teenage child as they spend long periods of their day on their smartphone?
What are the consequences of this posture over time?
What happens to the neck region when you spend long periods in a flexed position?
- Prolonged stretching of sensitive structures in the neck results in inflammation and a general ache of the neck due to muscle strain. The muscles are working overtime to support the weight of the head in front of your body as it is away from its natural upright position. Over time physiotherapists tend to observe a loss of a natural curve of the neck and a ‘Dowager’s hump’ developing at the nape of the neck. This is the prominence we often see in people who spend much of their time in front of a computer screen in poor posture.
- Headaches and back ache are caused by tight muscles and stiff joints. This often results from overloading of these structures for long periods when using devices such as smartphones.
- Dizziness coming from the neck region is reported as the second most common type of dizziness in today’s world and comes from overloading certain neck muscles that play a role in sending messages to our brain regarding where our head is positioned in space.
So how do we avoid long term problems associated with prolonged smartphone usage?
- Parents should examine the postures of their teenagers while on their mobile phones. Are they slumped on the couch while texting? Parents need to guide and encourage improved postures. A useful way to highlight this to a family member is to take a photo of the person from the side while they are using their smartphone. Now show it to them and explain the consequences of maintaining this position for long periods. Promote improved posture and advise that one should look downward with our eyes rather than bending our neck.
- Alter the posture you use your mobile phone in to include lying on your back, lying on your tummy or on your side to promote use of neck, shoulder and trunk muscles.
- The time spent on our smartphone needs to be reduced along with improving the posture adopted while on the smartphone.
- Exercise such as pilates or yoga is excellent for improving neck and trunk stability and strength to counteract the negative effect of smartphone usage on the spine. General stretches, using a foam roller, ensuring your pillow is giving you adequate support are all important ways of reducing the impact of sustained forward head positions.
Here are some simple exercises that may help relieve your neck tension.
Here are some helpful tips for staying comfortable at your workplace
What are the treatments available for neck pain caused by prolonged smartphone usage?
At West Limerick Physiotherapy Clinic all of our Chartered Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat neck issues as a result of prolonged use of technology such as smartphones, kindles, computers and ipads. Treatment is individualized and can include posture education, massage, deep dry needling and exercise prescription.
You can contact us today for more information and to make an appointment with Fiona, Claire, Jessie or Aisling.
If you think that you may be suffering from vertigo and have symptoms of dizziness and unsteadiness that may be coming from the neck region please contact Claire for a full vestibular assessment to identify and treat the causes of your dizziness.