By Ali Horsfall
Have you got ‘tech neck’ – a hunched posture or back and neck pain thanks to spending hours looking at your phone, tablet or laptop?
UK adults now spend between three and five hours a day on a smartphone, whilst American adults’ usage is an average of 5.4 hours a day - so it’s no surprise that all that hunching and looking down at a screen can cause pressure on the neck.
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‘The skull is designed to be balanced on the cervical spine – the neck – in a vertical position, as this puts the least stress on surrounding muscles and ligaments,' explains osteopath Avni Trivedi of London-based Avni Touch. 'By holding our heads forward for long periods of time when looking at phones, we cause repetitive strain to the body.’
Looking to ease the impact of tech neck on your everyday life? Here are eight expert-approved remedies to try…
1. Keep devices at eye height
‘Raise your device higher, so your gaze is towards the top third of the screen,’ Trivedi says. ‘To avoid craning the neck, voice messaging is great, and gives the extra benefit of a more human connection.’
To help maintain good posture when using your phone, install the Text Neck Indicator App. This displays a small green light in the corner of your screen when you’re holding your device at a good angle, whilst red means you’re at risk of straining.
Using a laptop? Invest in a laptop stand, which will help bring your screen up to eye height.
2. Try this tech neck stretch
‘To prevent the forward-slipping posture, practise standing against a wall,’ says Avni. ‘Bring your head, heels and shoulders back against the wall and let your spine uncurl. Do this for 30 seconds, repeating a few times a day. It will help you to remember the upright posture that your body is designed to maintain.
Meanwhile, to stretch out the neck: ‘Cup your fingers together behind your head. Use a gentle upward pull to lift and lengthen your neck. It should feel relaxing and pleasant.’
3. Twin stretching with massage
If tech neck is leading to concerns about saggy skin, try a little massage. Hold the knuckles of your first two fingers under your chin, then shuffle them up towards your ears and back down again, repeating several times.
Follow this with face yoga expert Danielle Collins’ swan neck stretch: slowly turn your head all the way to the right and lean it back to stretch the neck. Hold for six seconds, then slowly return to the centre. Repeat three times on each side.
4. Take a screen break
‘Set a timer to remind you to move away from your screen every 30 to 40 minutes. Grab a glass of water, have a stretch and walk around,’ suggests Avni. ‘In modern life, we also don’t use our peripheral vision enough. Go to open spaces as often as you can and practise looking out with a wide perspective. Observe what’s all around and in front of you. It’s so much more enlivening than just being in front of a screen!’
5. Press your head into your hands
Kerrie-Anne Bradley, the expert behind Pilates At Your Desk, advises trying the following: 'Interlock your fingers and place your hands behind your head, thumbs on the soft bits under your skull. Press your head into your hands and your hands into your head. You should feel the muscles at the top of your spine working. These ones don’t get a workout when your slouched forward. This will remind them that they have a job too. I like to do this intermittently throughout the day to counteract my avid social media habit.'
6. Lift your collarbones
This is another top tip from Bradley. She says: 'Start with your hands behind your head. Imagine you’re a puppet with strings attached to your collarbones. A puppeteer gentle pulls those strings lifting your collarbones to the ceiling. Keep pressing your head into your hands. You’ll feel your upper back. Return to your start position. Do this a few times.'
7. Nod from your ears
Bradley adds: 'When we look down the place to look down from is the hinge joint at our ears. A quick way to test this is to pop your fingers in your ears and nod your head up and down from there. It may feel weird but hopefully like a nice neck stretch. Now remove your fingers and see if you can look down by moving your head from your ears, rather than the base of your neck.'
8. Take steps to prevent tech neck
Prevention is better than cure, as your grandma probably used to say. ‘To avoid the temptation to scroll constantly, don’t always have your phone to hand,’ Trivedi advises. She adds: ‘Try not to use it as a portable office too, as it’s difficult to maintain good posture whilst looking at a tiny screen for long periods.’
Ali has written for national press and women’s lifestyle titles for well over a decade. She has a passion for health, fitness and wellbeing content – whether that’s reporting on the latest medical news, hunting out inspiring real life stories, or tapping up her little black book of health experts and fitness gurus so she can share the very best advice on staying well. Away from the keyboard, Ali embraces the concept of ‘all the gear, no idea,’ so often cleans the house wearing head-to-toe fitness gear. And why not? She loves stretching away stress on the yoga mat, forest bike-rides and being ensconced in a fluffy robe on restorative wellness weekend. She’s also learning to play golf – although four years on from first swinging a club, she’s actually getting worse, not better. Ali’s top wellbeing tip? Do something daily to help your mental health – it’s equally important as your physical fitness.
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