What Is ‘Tech Neck’? Explainer and Exercises to Relieve Pain

The very modern painful condition is experienced by heavy tech-users, but there are ways to reduce the risks.

Unless you’ve experienced it first hand, it might be easy to dismiss tech neck as another piece of jargon like chronoworking or quiet quittingbut for those that have experienced it, it can be a debilitating condition that could ruin your day.

It’s a catch-all term for neck and back pain caused by poor posture, specifically poor posture that is experienced when using tech like phones, tablets and computers.

We look at the steps you can take to prevent tech neck, as well as exercises to help relieve the symptoms.

What is Tech Neck?

‘Tech Neck’ (sometimes known as ‘text-neck’) is the term used to explain pains and aches caused by the act of constantly looking down at a phone, tablet or screen. With the average American spending over four hours a day on their phones alone, it’s no surprise that our bodies are paying the price.

If you have experienced tech neck in the past, you’re not alone. According to one report from the National University of Athens, 64.7% of people who work from home are suffering from neck pain. What’s more, 39.2% of them admitted to being less productive due to this ailment.

It’s an issue that seems to be on the rise too. Google search data shows that more and more of us are searching for this term. Is it a coincidence that as our technology usage increases, searches for tech neck increase with it?

Google trends data showing the increase in searches for the term ‘tech neck’

How to Prevent Tech Neck

The quickest way to prevent tech neck is to stop using tech, of course, but for most of us living in the modern world, that’s no more viable that stopping breathing. However, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the dangers of tech neck.

  1. Take frequent breaks. We don’t expect you to stop using your devices altogether, but regular 20 to 30 minute breaks can make a big difference, and break up the routine of bad posture.
  2. Adjust your desk monitor or laptop, so that it is eye-level. Ideally you want to be looking directly at it, so try raising your monitor, or using a laptop stand to get the right height.
  3. Invest in a comfortable chair with good support. Bad posture can be exasperated by a bad chair. If you’re a remote worker for example, sitting on a dining chair for seven hours a day is going to do a number on your body. Invest in an ergonomic chair instead.
  4. Get a standing desk. You could scrap the chair altogether, and opt for standing desk. Standing for work has numerous proven health benefits, including reduction in back and neck pain.
  5. Exercise more. It’s a good idea to do stretches and physical exercise to keep yourself supple. Why not get moving during your regular breaks?
  6. Learn to leave your phone alone. Many of us check our phone through habit, and end up doom scrolling, hunched over the device for long sessions. Try to wean yourself off your device by habitually leaving it out of reach, or checking it only at certain times.
  7. Use a posture reminder app. Experts at NJ Spine & Orthopedic recommend this method for giving yourself regular prompts to check your posture and readjust.

Diagram showing the weight and ensuing strain that looking at a screen can cause.

Exercises to Help With Tech Neck

If you’re suffering from tech neck, the importance of exercise cannot be understated. Regular sessions of low-impact exercise, such as yoga or swimming, can assist with posture improvement and reduce back and neck aches.

The following exercises are recommendations from the North American Spine Society for relieving neck pain:

  1. Supine neutral head position. Lay on your back with a thin pillow, or none at all, and place your head so your ears are aligned with your shoulders and hips. Spend 5 – 10 minutes in this position every couple of hours, as needed.
  2. Supine retraction. As with the first exercise, this one requires you to lie down with the back of your head on the floor. Then, place your fingers on your chin and push downwards to that the chin tucks in. There should be a stretching sensation at the back of your neck. Repeat 8 – 10 times, and stop if you experience any pain.
  3. Sitting or standing neck retraction. Similar to the above, but done while sitting or standing. Use your fingers to push on your chin, to push you head as far back as it will go, while keeping your face looking forward. Hold position for 1 – 2 seconds, then return head to its normal position. Repeat 8 – 10 times and do the 3 – 4 sessions each day. The North American Spine Society states that as pain eases, you should be able to push your head even further back.
  4. Walk tall. This one might seem obvious, but it’s something that few of us actually manage, without a degree of effort. Align your ears with your shoulders while standing up, and make a conscious effort to retain this position. This will require a degree of concentration at first, as most people will subconsciously drift back into a hunched position.  Keep this up though and it should become second nature, with the improvement in posture easing neck pain.

Remember, it is advisable to speak to a medical professional before adopting new exercise regimes.

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Written by:
Jack is the Deputy Editor for Tech.co. He has over 15 years experience in publishing, having covered both consumer and business technology extensively, including both in print and online. Jack has also led on investigations on topical tech issues, from privacy to price gouging. He has a strong background in research-based content, working with organisations globally, and has also been a member of government advisory committees on tech matters.
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