The advancements in today’s technologies are nothing short of amazing. For as much convenience as cell phones and tablets offer, there are also repercussions to consider, due to our increased dependence on technology.
As an experienced physician, Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, routinely sees the side effects of chronic technology use. One of the most common conditions that he diagnoses and treats is the recently coined “tech neck.”
Tech neck is a muscle-related condition that develops when you are constantly bent over your phone, computer, or tablet. The muscles in your neck need to work harder to keep your head up while you’re always looking down.
This abnormal posture and constant stress on your neck muscles leads to a variety of symptoms including:
Tech neck can also cause frequent and painful muscle spasms and can even result in more noticeable creaking of joints.
As your tech neck progresses, you can develop pinched nerves in the upper part of your spine, the cervical spine, that causes your arms, hands, and fingers to tingle or go numb.
Eventually, overtightened and stressed muscles put additional pressure on the discs in your spine. These discs absorb the shocks of your movements and prevent vertebrae from rubbing together. Extended periods of pressure on these discs cause them to wear out prematurely, leading to friction in the bones and pain.
Discs under pressure are also at increased risk for rupturing. A ruptured, or herniated disc, is a condition where the soft, gel-like center of your disc pushes out through the tough outer covering and presses on the nearby spinal nerves.
A herniated disc can be extremely painful, limiting what you can do and preventing a healthy range of motion in your spine. Compressed nerves can also be painful and gradually result in the loss of sensation in your arm and hand.
One of the first things Dr. Okubadejo recommends for relieving the pain and stiffness of tech neck is increasing your physical activity. By getting off the computer and exercising, you can naturally relieve associated pain and other symptoms of tech neck.
When you aren’t able to exercise due to existing complications of tech neck, you may need to start physical therapy to safely stretch the muscles surrounding your neck. Therapy can reduce your risk for additional injuries when your muscles are already overstressed.
Chronic neck pain that results from advanced complications of tech neck may be treated with epidural injections that can address existing inflammation that’s contributing to your pain. In severe situations, where you already have damage to your spinal discs, surgery may be considered for relieving the persistent pressure on the surrounding nerves.
Besides unplugging from technology altogether whenever possible, you should balance out your tech work with regular exercise. Dr. Okubadejo can recommend the right exercises that safely and effectively relieve tech neck symptoms. Massage therapy may also be beneficial for reducing muscle tension and increasing blood flow.
Whenever you must use your tablet or laptop, make sure you sit in a chair that adequately supports your neck and back. You should also take regular breaks to walk around and stretch your muscles.
If you feel pain or stiffness while working on electronic devices, pay attention. Any new symptoms should be properly evaluated by a medical expert, like Dr. Okubadejo.
You can schedule an appointment at the Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care today by calling the office nearest you or by requesting a consultation online now.