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Tech Neck, Poor Posture and Hunched Shoulders

The world today revolves around technology so much nowadays that our posture is impacted in a negative way, known as tech neck.


WHAT IS TECH NECK?

Tech neck is a 21st century syndrome which presents as a noticeable lean forward and downward tilt of the head. This could be due to tight muscles, however, it is more likely to be adaptive shortening of muscles due to repeated positioning of the head in this position.

Tech neck may stem from working at jobs which require us to lean forward or sit at our desks to perform work for extended periods of time, or from prolonged viewing of our cell phones, tablets, laptops/computers on our laps. While this positioning of the head is not entirely related to the use of electronic devices, the increase of this phenomenon may exacerbate an already existing issue.

WHAT DO PEOPLE NOTICE MOST WITH TECH NECK?:

Tech neck posture is very unflattering! However, it goes beyond just posture and is not as simple as just straightening up temporarily to ‘fix’ the issue. The noticeable physical presentations of tech neck, to name a few, are:

· Lean Forward of Head

· Downward Tilt of Head

· Rounded Back (Increased Thoracic Spine Flexion)

· Hunched/Rounded, Elevated Shoulders (Protracted Shoulders)

· Stiff Neck – Limited Rotation Right and Left

· Tension Headaches

· Neural Impingement, Disk Herniation and/or Pain

Poor movement patterns (biomechanics) such as repetitive motion and/or lack of motion of the cervical spine and associated muscles may lead to discomfort and pain in the neck.

This is because the weight put on the spine increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees. A full-grown head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces on the neck increase substantially: 15 degrees (27 pounds); 30 degrees (40 pounds); 45 degrees (49 pounds); and 60 degrees (60 pounds).


WHAT MUSCLES ARE IMPACTED?

MORE THAN YOU THINK!:

The three main types of muscle tissue are skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle groups. The muscular system of the body is comprised of more than 600+ muscles. The skeletal muscles protect vital organs in the body. They also work synergistically to help us breath, maintain balance, posture and enable us to move and perform daily activities. The mind-body connection is amazing, fascinating and complex. The list of muscles contributing to tech neck are numerous, however, below are a few that come to mind and their impact on physical appearance and dis/comfort.

· Upper Trapezius è Elevated Shoulders

· Levator Scapulae (LS) è Increased Shoulder Tension; Scapular Elevation

· Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) è Lean Forward of Head

· Thoracic Extensors è Hunched/Rounded Shoulders

· Cervical Flexors è Downward Tilt of Head


HOW TO FIX AND PREVENT RETURN OF TECH NECK?

A holistic approach to fixing tech neck may provide better results than temporary fixes such as reducing time on electronics, which may be an uphill battle in this modern age. Incorporating postural changes in various areas of our life may prove to be more manageable than implementing and sustaining a cold turkey methodology to electronics use.

However, first you must be aware of when your head/neck is out of alignment in order to then take the next steps towards positive correction. Once you become adept at recognizing when you are out of alignment, then you can go about introducing small corrections throughout the day on a daily basis.

Repetitive, daily corrective action will eventually lead to building new neural connections and strengthening your positive mind-body connection. Below are a few suggestions:

  • Daily Life. Practice finding your neutral posture. Pull your shoulders back and down and tuck chin to keep the body aligned in a neutral position. If you have trouble understanding how to be in good posture, stand with your back against a wall and do the above.

  • Workplace Ergonomics. Find your natural posture. Raise your electronic devices to eye level. This will prevent your head from tilting forward. If you are at work, adjust your keyboard/mouse, computer screen and chair so you are in a neutral posture.

  • Take frequent breaks. Set an alarm to remind yourself to take a break from work or your electronic devices. Get up and move around, preferably without your device in hand!

  • Arch and stretch your neck and back. Neck: Sit upright and tilt your neck back until your nose points to the ceiling. Back: Arch your back backward to relieve back pain and release hip flexor tension. I find that putting your fists on your lower back while you bend backward helps you from falling backwards! Or better yet, if you are able to get onto the floor, I highly recommend the Sphinx Yoga pose.

  • Hydrate & Exercise regularly. Exercising sends oxygenated blood to tired and tense muscles and being hydrated allows for the chemicals that cause inflammation and pain to wash away easily (e.g., water flowing smoothly in a running stream).

WHICH EXERCISES MAY HELP REDUCE TECH NECK?

A multi-faceted, daily approach to relieving neck tension has long-term benefits. Consider adding the following exercises to your daily routine:


Self-Myofascial Release - Inhibit the Knots. Carefully roll out any knots in the upper trapezius and LS with a small ball to reduce the likelihood of cramps and muscle tension. I like to place the ball in a drawstring bag and lean against a wall and roll the knots. Apply pressure on each spot until tension is released (30 seconds).


Static Stretching – Lengthen the Tight Muscles. Hold each stretch for 30-45 seconds. Sit in a chair with good posture.

o Forward Head Tilt – Chin Tuck

o Backward Head Tilt – Nose to Ceiling

o Tilt Head to Right. Place hand on opposite side of head and let gravity gently pull your head down.

o Tilt Head to Left. Place hand on opposite side of head and let gravity gently pull your head down.


Strength Train – Strengthen the Weak Muscles. Be on all fours on the floor in neutral position (ears, shoulders and hip are in line with one another). Let your head drop toward the floor and hold for 2 seconds. Lift the head back up to neutral position. Perform 10-15 repetitions. Record yourself to see if you are in a neutral position while on all 4’s.


Movement Integration – Mind-Body Coordination. Perform pushups while maintaining your head in a neutral position. When your head/neck muscles are weak, the head tends to dip down giving you the impression that you performed a deep pushup when you did not. Record yourself so that you can see if your heads dips!

Author: Imrana G Kazam, PhD, MCHC, CPT, WLS


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