4 Tips to Improve “Tech Neck” While Working at Your Desk

Have you ever heard of “tech neck”? If you’ve ever felt tension in your neck and spine after a long day sitting at your desk, then you’ve not only heard of it, but you’ve experienced it.

According to eMarketer, the average American adult spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their mobile devices per day. 

Several studies also found that adults spend an average of 11 hours per day staring at a screen, whether it be a desktop computer, TV, or mobile device. While some of that time is unavoidable for office workers, there are ways to “tech neck” and prevent adverse effects to your health.

What Is “Tech Neck”?

There are several negative mental health effects from too much screen time, but there is also the infamous “tech neck.” Sitting for long hours every day at a desk is a common cause for back and neck pain; this is often because you are trying to accommodate your workspace rather than making your workspace accommodate you.

For example, you might strain your eyes to see a computer monitor that is too far away, sit in an unsupportive chair, or work in a room that is too dim to see your keyboard, so you feel the need to hunch over it to get closer.

All of these situations can compromise your good posture. Plus, the average human head weighs about 12 pounds — which is about the size of a bowling ball. When your neck is hunched, it’s applying more force on your neck. This position strains your joints and muscles.

When you are hunched over at your desk, your muscles tighten, putting more pressure on the discs in your neck which makes them wear out quicker. As they wear out, they can bulge or even rupture. 

What Are the Symptoms of “Tech Neck”?

The most common complaints of “tech neck” are a headache, neck spasms, stiff neck, and pain between your shoulder blades. You may even have a difficult time looking up after looking down at your screen for a long time. In more severe situations, “tech neck” can result in a ruptured disc which can pinch a nerve causing pain, weakness, numbness in the arm, and even surgery.

To alleviate this neck and back strain, there are numerous changes you can make to your workspace and also best practices you can implement to encourage a well-aligned posture.

1. Adjust your workspace, so you don’t strain your eyes.

  • Raise or lower your monitor (or your chair) so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. 
  • Link your laptop to a larger monitor.
  • Move your monitor closer or farther away from you (depending on whether you are near- or far-sighted) so that you can easily read the screen.
  • Increase your font size.

2. Support your neck and back.

  • Upgrade your office chair to an ergonomic design or one that maintains the normal curves in your spine.
  • Position your mouse and keyboard so you don’t have to reach up to use them.
  • Change the position of your mouse from your left side to your right side periodically.
  • Use a speakerphone or a headset if you talk on the phone frequently.

3. Practice good posture.

  • Avoid sitting straight up at a 90-degree angle; you want to sit slightly reclined at 100 to 110 degrees.
  • Raise or lower your desk height or chair so that your forearms are parallel to the floor. Make sure your wrists are not pointing upward or downward.
  • Make sure there are a couple of inches between your chair and the back of your knees.
  • Use a document holder to avoid looking down frequently.
  • Make sure your feet touch the ground while sitting or use a stool if you elevated your chair and your feet don’t touch the floor.
  • Adjust your armrests so you are able to relax your shoulders; remove the armrests if necessary so that your neck and shoulders are not hunched.

For more tips on creating a healthy work-at-home environment, check out our blog 6 Tips to Create a Healthy Home Office to Boost Your Physical and Mental Well-Being.

4. Take frequent breaks from your desk and computer.

It is critical to take regular breaks away from the screen to mitigate eye strain, and see an optometrist for a checkup if you do experience these symptoms. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20-20-20 rule when using a screen for longer periods of time. After every 20 minutes of using technology, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.

Ultimately, the key to avoiding “tech neck” is to adjust your workspace to fit your posture, and not the other way around. You can even ask a colleague (or family member if you work from home) to take a picture of you while working at your desk, this way you can see your posture in action and make adjustments accordingly to avoid further strain on your neck and back.

Interested in more tips on how to improve your posture? Download our Guide: Best Neck and Back Stretches.

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