Pain in your neck? You may have ‘tech neck’

Mar 19, 2024, 11:00 AM

Olena Yacobchuk, Follow @amandadickson...

Olena Yacobchuk,

Are you reading this on your phone? Is your head tilted down to read? Or maybe you’re reading on your computer. Is your screen at eye level? Physical therapists are starting to see more of what’s being dubbed “tech neck.”

“Tech neck is when people have pain in their neck because they’ve been looking at their phone too much or sitting at a computer too many hours in a day,” said Melanie Marth, a physical therapist at Park City Hospital. “They come in with neck pain.”

The pain is primarily in the neck, but you can feel it in your shoulders and upper back, too. Marth said that sometimes people come to see her with neck pain that is made worse because of weakness in the shoulders. So the two overlap.

Try these posture-improving exercises

Tech neck can also lead to headaches.

“There are different forms of headaches,” Marth explained. “If they’re coming from the neck, they can be due to tight muscles or that forward head posture where your head is sticking out forward. Both of those can be the cause of headaches, and we can treat that.”

While anyone can get tech neck, Marth said it’s most common in people ages 18-50.

“People who are still in the workforce,” she added.

Preventing tech neck

We won’t be off our phones anytime soon, so how do we prevent tech neck?

“The biggest thing that I do as a physical therapist is I talk to them about their ergonomic setup,” she said. “Where is your screen position? What kind of seat are you sitting in to do your work? Are you using a laptop?”

Marth suggested instead of having your phone in your lap and looking down, try to have it more at your eye level. Situate your screen, whatever the size, directly in front of you.

There are even posture apps you can put on your phone to remind you to sit up straight and adjust your devices.

How to treat it

If you find yourself already tugging at your neck and shoulders, maybe even reaching for the pain relievers, Marth said the best thing to do is to get in to see a physical therapist.

“We’re well trained in muscles and joints,” Marth said. “We help deal with posture and correct those things.”

Plus, Marth explained, “in the state of Utah, physical therapy is a direct access service, so you don’t need a referral from your physician. You can just come in and get treated.”

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Pain in your neck? You may have ‘tech neck’