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?

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?

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.