Avoiding Tech Neck!?

Dental assistants are taught a lot about the importance of proper posture while at work, and for good reason. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders cost the United States millions of dollars every year in lost wages, disability payouts, and decreased productivity.

But for all we learn about good ergonomics and body mechanics in our career, we're not often taught about how to improve our body mechanics while using one of the most frequently used belongings we own: Our cell phones!

What Is Tech Neck (Text Neck)?

Tech neck, alternatively known as text neck, is a modern-day phenomenon. The forward flexed position we assume when looking down at our phones—whether texting, surfing the web, responding to emails, or whatever else we decide to do with our smart technology—can cause significant strain and tension on the connective tissue structures in our neck, head, and shoulders. The fact that most of us are in this position frequently and for prolonged periods of time only exacerbates this problem—estimates show that about 19 billion texts are sent around the world every day by as many as 4 billion cellphone users!

Aside from causing painful symptoms in the short term (which we'll get to in a minute), tech neck can also lead to long-term complications like arthritis and even nerve damage if steps aren't taken to avoid the repeated forward flexed posture.

Warning Signs of Tech Neck (Text Neck)

Look at all the people you see on their phones. Most likely, their heads are forward, their necks are bent, their upper backs are rounded, and their shoulders are internally rotated. Do this enough times and it's no wonder that people with tech neck often end of complaining about:

  • Stiff, achy, and sore neck and upper back
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Stiff, achy shoulders
  • Numbness in the hands and fingers (especially the thumbs)

These symptoms are usually worse right after using your cell phone, but can become more severe and longer-lasting over time. 

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3 Tips to Avoid This Common Digital Dilemma

It's clear that if we don't shape up the way we use our cellphones, our occasional stiff neck can turn into a life-long issue of degenerative disc disease, disc herniations, osteoarthritis, cervical radiculopathy, and so on.

Here are 3 helpful tips to help you improve the quality of your cell phone use:

  1. Straighten up. This may feel strange, but see if you can consciously hold your phone up at eye level in front of you while texting, relax and gently pull back your shoulders, and lift your head so your ears are in line with your shoulders. This habit can make a world of difference in your health—especially if you have a job like a dental assistant and are frequently sitting or bending over anyway! 
  2. Periodically scan your posture. An alarm can be a useful auditory reminder to stop, check, and correct your posture. 
  3. Take breaks. An alarm may also be useful for reminding you to take a break from your phone, tablet, laptop, or computer.

Challenge yourself to try some or all of these helpful tips this week. Your body (and your career) will thank you for it!