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Tech-neck: Are you putting yourself at risk of injury?

With the daily use of phones and computers at work, home, on the streets, in buses and elsewhere, people’s necks are bent more often while using these gadgets —in the long run, this develops into a ‘tech-neck’ as the muscles are stressed. 

The result is known to be headache, neck spasms, and creaky shoulder joints, caused by holding one’s neck still for long periods.

 

Aniket Ukey, a fitness consultant based in Kigali, says that a tech-neck, which is also known as a cervical kyphosis or text-neck, is a persistent painful condition that results from the hunchback slouch that many people employ when using their electronic devices. The issue begins when one bends their neck forward so as to look at their smartphone or another electronic device.

 

Health experts say that when a person is working on a computer or looking down at their phone, the muscles in the back of the neck have to contract to hold their head up. The more they look down, the more the muscles have to work to keep their head up. These muscles can get overly tired and sore from looking down at the electronic devices, all day.

 

“When the muscles are strained to hold the head, it puts more pressure on the discs, thus wearing them out so fast. These weakened discs can swell, and a person can experience weakness, pain and numbness in their arm and this could even require surgical treatment,” Ukey says.

Tech-neck is a condition that results from the hunchback slouch when using electronic devices. Photo: Net

Ukey points out that using the computer or smartphone all day can cause extra neck strain and you are likely to experience long-term effects, such as tension headaches, herniated discs in the cervical spine, and neck sprains. 

Treatment

He notes that treatment can be done with a couple of yoga postures. For instance, cat cow pose. This involves flexing and extending the neck, which allows the release of tension. For the cow face pose, this assists in stretching and opening one’s chest and shoulders.

“For example, come into a comfortable seated position. Raise your left elbow and bend your arm so your hand comes to your back. Use your right hand to gently pull your left elbow over to the right, or bring your right hand up to reach and hold your left hand. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds. Then do it on the other side,” the fitness consultant says.

He also recommends using the cobra pose as it strengthens the spine and stretches one’s shoulders.

“It is by lying down flat on one’s stomach with the elbows under the shoulders, pressing into one’s palms and forearms. Tighten your lower back, buttocks, and thighs to support you as you lift your torso and head. Keep your gaze straight ahead and make sure you’re lengthening your spine. Hold this pose for two minutes.”

Ukey mentions the legs up the wall pose. This medicinal pose has amazing healing potential and can help to relieve tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. It works by squatting forward on your hips towards a wall, from a seated position.

He says, “When you are close to the wall, lie back and swing your legs up and against the wall. You can place a folded blanket or pillow under your hips for support. Then bring your arms into any comfortable position. You may wish to gently massage your face, neck, and shoulders and stay in this pose for up to 20 minutes.”

Physiotherapists advise moving frequently at least every 15 to 30 minutes, especially if you have a job that keeps you seated for long. Getting up and walking around, even if it’s for a minute, can get the blood circulating, and it will get your neck in a different position. It’s not only good for your neck, but also the rest of your body. 

Studies show that sitting for long periods is dangerous to your heart and that it leads to a shortened life span.

A better way to sit is with the chair leaning back 25 to 30 degrees with a good lumbar support to prevent bending. In this position, the discs in the back, as well as the neck, are subjected to much lower forces than in an upright position, and the muscles in the back of the neck no longer have to contract to hold your head up.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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