Tech neck is real.
From our computers at work, our phones throughout the day, and the laptops, tablets, and TVs to wind down at night, screen time has taken its place in nearly every aspect of our day. With it comes tech neck: the exhausted and delicate muscles of our head, neck, and shoulders asking for some screen relief.
Here are five ways to fight tech neck and prevent screen-induced headaches and neck pain.
Whichever screen you’re looking at should be at eye level so you don’t need to make any neck adjustments. For computer monitors, this might mean adjusting the height of the screen, your chair, and even your keyboard, so your body sits at a natural height without strain. Also, be sure your screen is a safe distance away from your eyes but not too far to cause you to lean in and compromise your neck position.
For laptops, consider raising your screen with a stack of books and using a Bluetooth keyboard, so you’re not adding unnecessary tension to your neck or shoulders. And for tablets and phones, consider propping a pillow or two under your arm to keep your handheld screens at eye level.
2. Stay Hydrated
Over half of your body is composed of water which is why hydration is a fundamental element of a healthy (and pain-free) lifestyle. When your body is dehydrated, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons all tighten and leave you prone to stiffness and aches.
Drink water regularly throughout the day, and be sure to add more when the environment is warmer, when you exercise, or when you’re starting to feel tense.
3. Interrupt the Cycle
The longer we sit at a screen, the easier it is to slouch and crane our necks in unnatural positions. Make it a practice to stand up at least every hour to reset, stretch, and loosen your muscles. In fact, you can use this break as an opportunity for Tip #2 and refill your water while you’re at it!
4. Train Your Posture
Slouching isn’t usually an intentional action, it’s the result of how we’ve trained our bodies to sit and how they react to the environment we’re in. In addition to adjusting screens, chairs, and keyboards to the right height, training your core, shoulders, and neck to stay in alignment can do wonders for your aches and pains.
The best way to do this is to completely reset your posture whenever you notice you’re slouching. Instead of just pulling your shoulders back in the moment, stand up, loosen your arms and neck, then sit down with the posture you’d like to keep. This helps train your body to maintain that posture while you’re sitting, so it becomes the new norm.
Some electronic devices will even buzz you for a reminder when it senses that you’re slouching if you find that helpful. Adding a few extra core strengthening exercises to your workout routine will also help improve your posture overall.
5. Make Time to Decompress
Let’s face it. Screens are sticking around for a while, so adding a regular practice to decompress can prevent those screen-induced aches and pains or keep them at by when they arrive.
Start by incorporating deep and mindful breathing to connect your breathing to your posture. A few extra breaths when you sit down or start to feel tension can remind your muscles to relax and settle into a safe ergonomic position.
You can also relieve tension in your eyes by taking periodic breaks to look away from the screen and focus on something far away - across the room or outside the window. This practice helps relax the eye muscles that lead to neck strain when you’re frequently focused on things in your near sight (as in, all those screens!).
Screen time does more than just bring tension headaches and neck pain. Our constant connection to devices can exhaust our minds and moods alike, resulting in overall tech stress.
When you’re regularly fighting headaches and neck pain from screens, consider taking a tech break or a digital detox to relax your body and mind, promote healing and wellness, and reconnect with the natural world.