How to stop the pain of ‘Tech Neck’


There’s a good chance you’re reading these words right now while staring down at your smartphone. But beware: your reading habits could be causing long-term damage to your neck and spine.

Staving off the so-called ‘Tech Neck’ could be as simple as regularly practicing some neck stretches and exercises.

Jake Bleacher, MSPT, a physical therapist with Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Sports Medicine, says you should try to identify the bad habits that can lead to Tech Neck:
  • Bending your neck more than 30 to 45 degrees (Example: Are you looking down at your lap? If so, that’s bad.)
  • Holding that position for long periods of time (Example: More than 30 minutes)

Bleacher says Tech Neck is caused by putting stress on the muscles and tissue in the neck and shoulder area. The pain is unlikely to appear suddenly – rather, it is culmination of many hours of stress on the neck. He says patients who experience Tech Neck often start with a vague complaint of neck or shoulder pain.
“If you hit your hand on a door, that hurts immediately, but this type of pain creeps up on you more slowly,” explains Bleacher.

How to avoid Tech Neck

Bleacher says start by paying attention to your body posture while using your smartphone. If you aren’t sitting like you do at work, with your eyes forward, you should consider changing positions. 

“The best strategy is to be conscientious of the amount of time in a certain position, along with regularly doing stretches and exercises,” he explains. 
You should develop a habit of taking a two-minute break for every 20 minutes you are using your smartphone or tablet. (Tip: Consider setting an alarm on your phone to help remind you.)

An even more proactive step is to regularly stretch or exercise your neck and shoulder muscles.
He suggests four easy exercises and stretches that you can do anywhere: 
  • Chin Tuck – While sitting straight up, place two fingers on your chin and push your head straight back. (Watch the video for more.)
  • Chest Opening – Start by standing at attention and pinching your shoulder blades behind you for a few seconds.
  • Chin Nod – Simply move your head all the way back and then all the way down toward your chest in slow, constant movements.
  • Shoulder Rolls – Stand up straight and slowly make circles with your shoulders. Then reverse direction.

If you can’t do the exercises, simply changing directions can help. (Example: Look up, instead of down.) 

“That way, even for a brief amount of time, you are taking stress off that tissue,” says Bleacher.

If you are doing the exercises and stretches but still experiencing pain in the neck or shoulder area, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.