This post, part of our special series on the Coronavirus outbreak, was written by BGCA staff Kat Adams, Director of Sports & Recreation, and Kate Buechner, Director of Youth Development Training.
For most of us, working from home has not been our primary mode of operations until now, so we’re all scrambling to set up home offices and create productive habits and environments to operate within. If you’re like us, you’re trying to do the best you can with what you have. Spending hours in front of a computer or frequently looking at our phones is rough on our bodies even in the best of circumstances, but our current working conditions (the couch, the coffee table, the kitchen counter) may be causing us additional pain. And adults working from home aren’t the only people experiencing this – kids and teens are also likely spending more time than usual hunched over laptops, tablets, phones, or typewriters.
One of the most common conditions related to computer, tablte and phone use has been dubbed “tech neck.” Tech neck is the posture of having your head tilted downward and chin extended forward – the posture we’re basically all assuming as we stare down into our screens all day. This posture can cause both short and long term problems.
Common symptoms of tech neck include:
- Pain in the neck, upper back and/or shoulder. This pain may be located in one specific spot and feel intense or stabbing, or it may be a general achiness and soreness that covers a broader region, such as spanning from the bottom of the neck and into the shoulder(s).
- Forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Muscles in the neck, chest, and upper back can become deconditioned (weak) and imbalanced. This can make it difficult to maintain good posture with the ears directly over the shoulders.
- Reduced mobility. The neck, upper back, and shoulders may all experience some tightness and reduced mobility.
- Headache. Muscles at the base of the neck could go into spasm and become painful, or pain could also be referred from the neck up into the head. This is on top of the increase risk for headaches that comes from looking at screens.
- Increased pain when neck flexion. Tech neck symptoms tend to worsen when the neck is flexed forward into the position that originally caused the problem, such as while looking down and texting.
- Balance issues. Prolonged amounts of time in forward head posture have been linked to reduced balance control, due to the head’s center of gravity migrating further in front of the body. This can result in even more muscle imbalances and posture changes. Learn more here.
Good news! There are some easy stretches you can do at home daily to counteract the effects of staring down at a screen – no equipment needed!
Stretches to Ease Tech Neck
For all of these stretches, you want to keep your upper body in the same position, without arching your back or rolling your shoulders forward. Remember: the goal isn’t to stretch as far as you can, but to stretch enough for YOUR body. We want to alleviate pain, not cause it, so start each stretch gently, and if it hurts – don’t do it!
- Neck Extension
- Sitting upright in a chair or cross-legged on the ground, tilt your head up, looking towards the ceiling or as far back as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Lower your head, tucking your chin to your chest. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Neck Side Bend
- Sitting upright in a chair or cross-legged on the ground, tilt your head so that your ear moves towards your shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Bring head to center, then drop down to other shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Note: Keep your shoulders down, and try to keep your head and shoulders in the same place, with face always facing straight.
- Neck Rotation
- Sitting upright in a chair or cross-legged on the ground, turn head to look over shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds .
- Turn towards opposite shoulder, hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Note: Keep your upper body still, and head upright.
- Chin Tuck
- Sitting upright in a chair or cross-legged on the ground, pull chin straight back, like there was a string attached to the back of your head. Hold for 10 seconds, release.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Note: If done right, this pose will be incredibly unattractive and a little uncomfortable. You can also try this in a car seat by pushing your head back against the headrest.
- Wall Arm Chest Stretch
- Standing with your shoulders perpendicular to a wall, place your palm on the wall at shoulder height.
- Hold this position for 10-30 seconds, then switch sides.
- Note: Be sure to stand at a distance from the wall that provides a stretch in your chest and shoulders without pain, while keeping your shoulder down and upper body mostly forward. You may need to be a little farther from the wall than the gif below, but the point is to do whatever gives that stretch without pain.
- Cactus Arms
- Standing in the middle of a door frame, hold your arms parallel to the floor.
- Bend your elbows so your lower arms are pointing up to the ceiling (you should look like a field goal or a cactus with upper arms parallel to floor, forearms at 90 degree angle).
- Rest elbows on door frame and lean slightly forward.
- Note: You can lift your arms higher for different stretch, or hold one arm straight and switch if your arms aren’t long enough have both touching the door frame at the same time.
Need more? Here are some other quick tips to help you stay comfortable and pain-free while working from home:
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Every hour, take a break and move around. You can take a walk, do a non-computer task, or do some stretches
- Incorporate neck and shoulder stretches and exercises into your daily routine
- Set yourself up (as best you can) in the optimal position for computer use.
Check back in with the ClubX Blog often for more ideas and resources on how to maintain your mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Take care of yourself. We are in this together!
Get the latest updates from BGCA at BGCA.net/Coronavirus, find programming ideas at MyFuture.net, like the BGCA Youth Development on Facebook for YD updates including video from Sarah, and join the brand new BGCA Youth Development Community also on Facebook to connect with other Club staff on programming through coronavirus.