At Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre we often see ‘tech-neck’s.

We live in a computer age. This is fast becoming the ‘remote technology’ age particularly evident with current events. We are working on our laptops and desktop PC’s for extended periods doing our best to adjust our home workspace so that it is ergonomically viable.

In some cases, we develop poor habitual postural patterns and this can lead to musculoskeletal pain.[1]

I call this ‘tech-neck’ or ‘inter-neck’ and in this article, I’ll show you ways you can manage it.

What is ‘tech-neck’?

Our centre of gravity is located behind our ears. The average head weighs ~10lb [2]. Our heads therefore, naturally fall forwards with gravity this most evident when momentarily fall asleep whilst sitting causing a jolt as our muscles appreciate the sudden shift in weight distribution. Most human activities are dominant one side (depending on handed-ness) and orientated forwards. Over time our heads move forwards leading to a myriad of muscle imbalances. The body works hard to keep the head supported and maintain optimal line of sight. Certain muscles lengthen and become weak whilst others shorten and increase in tension. [3]

Muscles that lengthen include deep muscles at the front of the neck responsible for bending the head and neck forwards, muscles at the lower neck and upper back responsible for extending the head and neck backwards and muscles between the shoulder blades that help open the chest and keep the shoulder back.

Muscles that shorten include those at the back of the neck at the top. These are very strong muscles working continuously to keep the head and vision upright, the chest muscles reduce in length as the back muscles lengthen and side muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the upper neck.

The result could be forward head posture and an increased upper back curve.

So, what happens when you have ‘tech-neck’?

When the head is held forwards for extended periods of time you may feel a general ache or pain effecting the back and sides of the neck and upper back; more intense pain if forward head posture is more long standing, focal areas of pain commonly known as active trigger-points (these may also refer elsewhere) [4] and/or inflamed muscles simply from the unrelenting tension.

It is possible forward head posture can also lead to other more complex problems involving the spinal joints, spinal discs, spinal nerves and other associated structures like joint capsules and ligaments.

The lower part of the neck is particularly susceptible due to the ‘long lever’ effect of the head on the spine. The further forward the head travels the greater the load on this area.

In the long term it is possible the cervical spine (neck) will start to degenerate. [5]

So, what can you do to prevent this?

Chiropractors, Cranbourne can help with ‘tech-neck’.

  1. Body awareness. In a study by Holger et al, a Postural Awareness Scale was used to measure postural awareness where ‘participants described detailed moment-to-moment variations in awareness of their body postures, perceived deficiencies in body awareness and their association with pain symptoms, as well as improvements in aspects of postural awareness.’ [1] Body awareness is fundamental to managing posture particularly when immersed in computer work.
  2. Resistance exercise. Strengthening those muscles that are lengthened i.e. the deep muscles at the front of the neck, muscles at the lower neck and upper back and those between the shoulder blades. Talk to your health professional about using resistance bands.
  3. Stretching exercise. Stretching the muscles that shorten i.e. those at the back of the neck at the top, the chest muscles and side muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the upper neck. Again, talk with your health professional about using resistance bands and other ways to stretch.
  4. Posture aids. I recommend the posture-medic [6].

In much the same way we train for a sport we must also train and condition our bodies to meet the constant demands of prolonged sitting posture. It is imperative you pace yourself with any postural correction program. Please consult your health professional for proper guidance around stretching, strengthening and the use of any postural aid.

REFERENCES:

[1] https://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9

[2] https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-an-average-human-head-weigh

[3] https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/forward-head-postures-effect-neck-muscles

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4508225/

[5] https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/degenerative-disc-disease/cervical-degenerative-disc-disease

[6] https://www.posturemedic.com.au/

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About the Author:

Dr. Andrew Arnold is the senior Chiropractor and practice owner, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre 

Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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