The Causes of “Tech Neck” and How to Remedy It

By: Dr. Klaus Dobra, PT, DPT, CSCS

Today, nothing has more buzz than anything that carries a tagline of “tech.” However, with the rise of a new age come the consequences of new posture. In this addition of Why Am I Hurting, we will be discussing the phenomenon of tech neck, its causes, and methods to counteract it for those moments when we are in front of the phone or computer, and for those moments we are not.

The Problem

If you have a computer intensive profession, take a look around your office. Observe the posture of your fellow sapiens and try to pick out the aspects of their work posture that have digressed since the dawn of bipedalism. Can you find what shouldn’t belong? Look at the elements of their head and neck, shoulders, and the rest of their spine. I certainly can’t see them, but I think I can predict with resounding accuracy how they might look.

When we are hard pressed to make deadlines at work, or even send that perfect text to a budding romance, our bodies follow our attention. Our necks become protracted, or translated forward. When the head is tilted, the neck follows its lead and goes into hyperextension with a progressive shortening of our cervical extensors and upper trapezius, and lengthening with weakening of our cervical flexors. As we move down the stack, our middle and lower back respond with rounding forward into a hunched posture. This weakens our paraspinals and core. When our spine goes from the shape of an “S” to that of a “C,” we no longer have the luxury of sitting on our sitz bones, or ischial tuberosities. Instead, we sit on our sacrums and flip the switch in our gluteals to a dysfunctional “off” position. The final element of our evolutionary digression is that our soldiers round forward with a tightening of our pectorals and weakening of our scapular retractors.

The Fix

It is reasonable to presume that if you are going to be in a perpetual posture for 8-10 hours a day and then follow that up with scrolling through Reddit, then you should probably spend some time between emails and memes to counteract what you are putting your corporal self through. Because there is weakness in deep cervical flexors, we strengthen them. Because there is shortening in cervical extensors and upper trapezius, we lengthen them. Because there is a rounding of our middle and lower backs, we mobilize them to assume physiological neutral. When our core and gluteals weaken, we strengthen them, too. If our shoulders our pulled forward then we, again, strengthen what is weak and lengthen what is short which is our scapular retractors and pectorals, respectively . Try these simple exercises to get started.

We have a responsibility to maintain what we are given because our muscles and bones are their most content when they are as close to physiological neutral as they can be. The product of hundreds of thousands of years of trial and error, our posture is under perpetual assault from the way we interact with the world. In that sense, we cannot rely on our functional capacity to correct what ails us. We have to spend time doing specific and mindful exercises to pull ourselves out of the posture of a wilted willow and standing as strong as nature intended.

This is where the help of a physical therapist can help give you the physical knowledge you need to correct your deficits and provide the tools for preservation we are slowly losing to “tech.” If you’d like to speak to someone about your tech neck, give us a call or fill out the form below.

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