How can one alleviate the symptoms of tech neck?
Number one is to get up and move frequently. If you have a sedentary sitting job, at least every 15-30 minutes, you should get up and walk around, even if it’s for a minute. That’ll get blood circulating, and it will get your neck in a different position. It’s not only good for your neck, but also the rest of your body. Studies show that sitting for long periods is dangerous to your heart and that it leads to a shortened life span.
Number two, get a chair that reclines with a very good lumbar support, and lean back as much as practical while you’re working. That will take the pressure off of the neck muscles so that they aren’t strained. You can tell if you are leaning back adequately by doing the following: First, if you were to fall asleep in that position, your neck should fall backward. Alternatively, if you put your hand at the back of your neck, as you lean forward, you’ll find that the neck muscles contract and stiffen up. As you lean backward they will relax and get soft.
Number three, see if you can work standing up, as much as possible.
When should one see a doctor?
If you have a tech neck, the last person you should see is a surgeon. They’re not going to be able to help because the solution isn’t an operation. It would be better to see a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R, also known as a physiatrist) doctor. They are doctors who take care of bone and joint problems in a non-operative manner. We have several of the top PM&R doctors in the world at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Daniel and Jane Och Spine Hospital. If their non-operative measures don’t work or if you have ongoing problems such as constant numbness or weakness in the arms, then it’s time to consider surgery and see a surgeon.
How can one prevent tech neck?
If you have neck pain that really bothers you, I recommend doing some form of aerobic exercise on a regular basis. That could be using ellipticals, recumbent stationary bicycles, jogging, swimming, or walking at a brisk pace. Choose an aerobic activity that doesn’t cause you neck pain while you are doing it or the next day. If you do it for a sustained period, about 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week, getting your heart rate and respiratory rate up and working up a good sweat, that will keep your neck and back much healthier. It will also help ease the tension in the back of the neck.
How does exercise help?
When you do aerobic exercise, it sends oxygenated blood to those tired muscles and washes away the chemicals that cause inflammation and pain. If I have a long day where I have to work on a computer for long hours, I’ll go home and exercise for 45 minutes and I feel much better.
Source: Kenneth K. Hansraj, M.D.; “Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head”; Surg Technol Int. 2014 Nov;25:277-9.