MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many people spend a lot of time looking down at smartphones, computers and tablets.
Doctors are concerned more gadgets are leading to more strain on our bodies because of bad posture.
University of Minnesota sports medicine physician David Jewison sees a growing problem among people of all ages, he calls it “tech neck.”
“That’s a term that we loosely use to describe muscle and nerve pain that can, you can get headaches from, and neck pain and upper back and shoulder pain from, from being in a poor posture position from being on a tablet or a smartphone,” Jewison said.
Jewison said it is easier for most people to look down rather than hold up a smartphone to eye level.
“The average human head weighs about 10 pounds, so you’re balancing a 10 pound weight on your upper body,” Jewison said.
Jewison explained short-term muscle and nerve pain are the biggest side effects of “tech neck” but down the line, adolescents and people with a family history may be at greater risk for problems like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
“If anybody has any genetics that sets them up for spine or neck problems and then they’re also doing this a lot, that can increase the chance that it is going to happen and maybe happen sooner in life,” Jewison said. “Then there’s the essence of we don’t know. A lot of our mobile world has come up in the last 10, 15 years and it’s becoming more prevalent where this is where we live all day.”
Jewison recommends taking frequent breaks from technology, every 20 minutes if possible.
“You can do exercises where you can just hold your neck in a posture position and push against your hand and hold that for five or 10 seconds,” Jewison described, “That’s what we call an isometric exercise of the neck.”
Jewison has seen more patients in recent years who do not know why they are having neck or back pain and “tech neck” may be the answer.
“If you do start to get any types of nerve pains or pains that don’t seem normal for you, things to make sure you ask questions about,” Jewison said.
There are also apps for your smartphone that will alert you using a light when the phone is at an angle that indicates your head is lowered into an unhealthy posture.
Another tip from Jewison is to exercise the back muscles of the body as much as the front, because people tend to focus more on the front of the body because that is all they see in the mirror.