Healthy Living

Wellbeing News: Suffering with tech neck?

How are you reading this article? Back straight, feet planted firmly on the floor, and screen elevated to eye height at a comfortable 50-65cm away? We thought not. The chances are that, like most of us, your leisure screen-time mostly takes place on a mobile device resting on your knees or held somewhere around your midriff. As a result, our phones and tablets tend to take the wrap when we complain of stiff necks and sore backs. A new study, however, has found that gender can determine how badly you will be affected by the dreaded ‘tech neck’.
‘Tech neck’ is a persistent pain in the neck and upper shoulders as a result of too much time spent hunched over a screen. The study has found that women are two times more likely to experience adverse effects from iPad use than men. The lead author of the study, Szu-Ping Lee explains: “Theoretically, the more hours you spend bent over an iPad, the more neck and shoulder pain you experience – but what we found is that time is not the most important risk factor. Rather it’s gender and specific postures.”

The most common vices when it came to posture were sitting in a chair without back support, sitting with a tablet in the lap, and sitting on a chair while the tablet is lying on a flat surface.

In the study, 70% of women respondents reported experiencing symptoms of tech neck, compared to just 30% of men. The study found that women were considerably more likely to adopt unconventional positions when using their tablets – such as sitting on the floor. It is also thought that having a smaller stature (shorter arms and narrower shoulders) may lead to assuming more extreme neck and shoulder postures while typing. The most common vices when it came to posture were sitting in a chair without back support, sitting with a tablet in the lap, and sitting on a chair while the tablet is lying on a flat surface.
When it comes to avoiding tech neck, there are some easy steps we can take:

  • Sit in a chair with back support, as this will discourage slouching. (In the study, the odds of pain were two times higher if sitting on a backless chair.)
  • Place the tablet on a stand at an angle rather than flat on a table, so there is no need to crane over it.
  • Buy a posture trainer. If you’re worried that bad posture has become too ingrained, it’s really worth investing in one of these wearable devices. Each time your posture slumps, the device vibrates – it’s technology’s discreet equivalent to your mother exasperatedly telling you to “sit up straight!” as a child.
  • As we age, maintaining good posture becomes even more important as our lower hormone levels can cause weaker bones and joint inflammation. Try following Liz’s top tips for better posture and bone health here.