Tech Neck: The 21st Century Ailment

Is Tech Neck Real?

The phenomenon commonly referred to as "Tech Neck" is indeed a real and increasing concern in today's digitally dominated world.   It has risen due to the fact that more people spend extensive hours hunched over their smartphones, tablets, and laptops.  This condition is not just a myth; it's recognized by health professionals as a physical ailment directly linked to the modern lifestyle.   

The Rise of Tech Neck

Tech Neck, also known as Text Neck, is a 21st century ailment that has shown a rise in prevalence correlating with the invention and subsequent usage of personal technology. As work and play both transition from more interpersonal, real-life settings to the digital world, new problems begin to arise. A paper published in 2022 reported that globally, 73% of university students and 64.7% of individuals working from home experienced neck or back pain, with 39.2% of them admitting that they felt they were less productive due to the pain (1). It’s been hypothesized that this increase in neck pain, particularly in younger, more generally healthy individuals has been due to “the dramatic growth of mobile phone usage” (2). However, to determine whether or not this was likely the case, several studies were done documenting the prevalence of the “Tech Neck” or Forward Head Posture (FHP). One study, done by the department of Physiotherapy at Adesh University in 2020 concluded that out of the 200 student subjects that had been analyzed for the study, 73% of them exhibited FHP (3). Additionally, when photographed in another study, results showed that while compared to neutral standing, individuals viewing mobile phone screens displayed considerably more FHP overall.

What Is Tech Neck?

Tech Neck, also known as "text neck," is a modern term describing a range of symptoms resulting from the excessive use of handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. When individuals spend long periods looking down at their devices, this unnatural posture strains the neck muscles and cervical spine. The primary symptoms of Tech Neck include chronic neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and sometimes even headaches. 

Tech Neck Effects on Health

However, the bending of the neck itself isn’t alone responsible for the increase in neck pain in students, though it certainly contributes. Rather, the time spent in FHP is the primary cause of the stress and strain. Posture is defined as the structural framework of the human body that’s purpose is to resist gravity. Looking down for extended periods of time results in poor posture and incorrect body alignment, causing mechanical strain on the joints and ligaments of the cervical spine. This prolonged stress on the neck can cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Decreased Range of Motion
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Tightness
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Jaw Pain

Addressing Tech Neck 

Fortunately, postural correction, for the most part, is something that is under the control of the individual and can be corrected with cervical exercises and lifestyle changes. A study done in 2017 outlined different levels of exercise and their respective effects on the FHP. Divided into three groups, the subjects were given instructions to practice modified cervical exercises either once, twice, or three times a day (4). This then continued on for four weeks and at the end of the time period, the subjects were examined once more. 

The results of this study showed that despite the short duration, the exercises resulted in a significant improvement in the range of motion, increasing in effectiveness with the frequency. This small change in the subject’s day of adding cervical exercises worked to both relieve the pain and correct their posture over time. Additional lifestyle changes that were shown to prevent and treat Tech Neck include (5):

  • Lifting the phone higher to avoid bending of the neck.
  • Taking frequent breaks between sessions of technology usage.
  • Focusing on standing up straight and correcting overall posture.

Tech Neck Exercises

Combatting Tech Neck involves specific exercises designed to strengthen and stretch the neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles. These exercises aim to improve posture, alleviate pain, and prevent future strain.

A simple yet effective routine can include:

  • Neck Stretches 
  • Shoulder Rolls
  • Chin Tucks
  • Upper Back Stretch

However, if your symptoms persist, you may want to consider the treatment options below.

Treatment Options

While a simple fix in theory, new habits can be difficult to break, especially when it comes to posture. Luckily, in recent years, there have been breakthroughs in physical therapies using electrical impulses to retrain the body to hold itself properly, such as ARPwave NeuroTherapy. These techniques range in commitment from daily additions to full therapeutic processes for more severe cases.

For additional information on how to take advantage of these techniques and explore additional options about pain relief, please book a call with one of our licensed physical therapists today.

(952) 431-9708

Article References

1 Text Neck Syndrome: Disentangling a New Epidemic- 

2 Photographic measurement of head and cervical posture when viewing mobile phone: a pilot study - 

3 Prevalence of forward head posture and its impact on the activity of daily living among students of Adesh University – A cross-sectional study - 

4 The effect of modified cervical exercise on smartphone users with forward head posture. - 

Text Neck Treatment and Prevention - 

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