Fitness + Well-being

5 Tips for Avoiding 'Tech Neck' (And the Pain and Headaches It Brings)

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Eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome aren't the only fun byproducts of working online: We can now add "tech neck" to the ever-growing list of maladies brought on by our computers, phones and tablets.

Tech neck, a condition caused by frequently craning one's neck in order to stare down at a screen, is becoming increasingly common in the digital age. Whenever anyone hunches over their laptop or hangs their head to text on a smartphone, they're putting up to 50 pounds of excess pressure on their cervical spine — and potentially setting themselves up for a world-wide-web of pain.

According to Dr. Stefano Sinicropi, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a sub-specialty in spinal surgery, tech neck could also be causing shoulder pain, headaches and even numbness in your arms.

Fortunately, Dr. Sinicropi also has five great tips for avoiding these pitfalls altogether and keeping necks everywhere un-teched:

#1. Be Aware

The act of holding your head flexed and forward while looking down places your cervical spine in a tenuous position. Doing this repeatedly and frequently over long periods of time can lead to muscular strain, disc injury and arthritic changes of the neck, and can lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches and symptoms down the arms. It's critical to first understand that poor posture can create many unwanted health issues involving your cervical spine.

#2. Set Time Limits

Limit the amount of time and frequency that you use your device. If you have to use it for an extended period of time, take breaks. Develop a habit of taking a 3-minute break for every 15–20 minutes you use your device. Change your posture, or move around. If you need help facilitating this step, try to …

#3. Set Automatic Reminders

Utilize the automatic alarm on your smart device to remind you to take a time-out. For those of you with wearable devices, such as the iWatch, these can be programmed to tap you every 15-20 minutes, reminding you to break.

#4. Use a Tablet Holder

Purchase a holder to elevate your device to significantly to reduce the amount of neck flexion and forward positioning. Try to keep the device as close to eye level as possible. (This is probably the best way to prevent tech neck.)

#5. Take Action

Use pain as a warning. If you are experiencing pain in your neck, pain between the shoulder blades, frequent headaches, or a numbness or tingling in the arms, there may be a more serious issue at hand. If the above methods fail to produce results, and reducing overall handheld usage does not improve these symptoms, it's time to seek professional help.