The physicians and staff of Princeton Spine and Joint Center.

Tech neck, text neck: No matter what you call it, we all should be aware by now that these indispensable products in our hands come at a cost. Many costs, really. Costs to relationships, emotional well being, perhaps society — but this article is about necks. People are getting better in general about being aware of their posture while lifting heavy objects. We appreciate that standing up straight is a good thing. But take out a smart phone or device and any concept of posture with the neck and head typically goes out the window.

Consider the following: The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. Carrying 12 pounds over your head is hard enough, but as your neck bends forward, the weight on the cervical spine increases. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds. Yikes! That’s a lot of weight and stress going through your neck. Here are four simple ways to minimize the stress of using your smart phone on your neck:

First, try to not bend your neck to look down. Just shift your gaze downwards without actually bending your neck. Or at least bend your neck less. As you can see above, the more you bend your neck the more stress you put on it.

Second, use a hands-free device so if you’re on the phone you can be looking straight ahead instead of holding the phone between your shoulder and head.

Third, if you are looking at your phone or device, take breaks! That’s right, remind yourself to look up, look around, stretch your neck and shoulders, and then continue with your device if needed.

And fourth and finally, take good care of your neck the rest of the day. Have good workplace and home ergonomics and stretch and strengthen the muscles around your neck so they are more ready for the stress of your daily life. And get a healthy amount of safe exercise, which tends to help just about everything.

Fortunately, when necks do become painful, there are a myriad of options to take the pain away. Non-surgical spine specialists have developed an arsenal of capabilities over the years, backed by science and rigorous studies to help take away the pain. These approaches range from massage, manual medicine, and physical therapy to soft tissue injections, nerve blocks, image-guided joint injections, and a procedure called radiofrequency rhizotomy that stops the pain signals from parts of your neck from reaching your brain.

It’s comforting to know that there are safe, viable treatment options if neck pain should become a problem. However, as we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth well over a pound of cure. And once a neck is “cured” of neck pain, it’s still just as important — if not more so — to develop healthy neck hygiene including good neck posture while using devices in order to prevent the neck pain from recurring in the future.

And remember, even with perfect posture while using your devices, don’t forget to lift your gaze from time to time from your screen to enjoy the actual living, breathing world around you. You may find it refreshingly interesting and invigorating.

If you have neck or other pain and want to be pain-free without surgery or dangerous medications, the doctors at Princeton Spine and Joint Center would be happy to help.

Princeton Spine and Joint Center, 601 Ewing Street, Building A-2, Princeton, and 256 Bunn Drive, Suite B, Princeton. 609-454-0760.

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