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Tech neck posture, it’s everywhere!

Girl holding phone with bad and good posture

“Posture is declining at the rate of technology-It took us 3 million years to get bipedal and a couple of
decades of technology to ruin it.” – Dr. Krista Burns, DC – American Posture Institute

“Tech neck” or “text neck” is the act of stressing muscles while using phones, tablets, and computers,
commonly resulting in neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and numbness of the arms and hands. It occurs
when the head tilts forward at varying degrees causing the amount of pressure on the cervical spine to
multiply. This position can also be described as someone having a “forward head posture”. When an
individual has healthy posture and is standing completely upright, you will see their ear located directly
over their shoulder at 0 degrees. In this position, the head weighs approximately 10-12lbs. With every
15-degree tilt forward, the weight of the head will be distributed in such a way on the neck that the
head will actually weigh more. With a 15-degree forward head carriage the head weighs 27lbs, at 30
degrees the head weighs 40lbs, at 45 degrees the head weighs 49lbs, and at 60 degrees head will weigh
an incredible 60lbs! Sixty pounds of pressure crushing down on the cervical spine when you are looking
at your smart phone or computer! This is incredibly alarming because from a neurological perspective,
this added pressure on the cervical spine by perceived head weight may produce considerable postural
stresses impacting blood flow, respiration, proprioception, cognition, and mood.

Over time, forward head posture can reduce the normal cervical spine curvature causing imbalance and
tension in neck muscles, decrease blood flow from arteries in the neck to the head, and cause changes
to blood flow in the brain. The brain needs blood to help with clear thinking, to increase healing and
reduce inflammation (especially from a concussion or brain injury), and to communicate with the body
appropriately. When the head is forward and the neck curvature is reduced, biomechanically the mid
back overcompensates by increasing its curvature causing the shoulders to become more rounded and
“hunched” which in turn decreases the ability of the lungs and diaphragm to expand when an individual
breathes in. With less lung expansion, the body must use accessory muscles and more energy to breathe
resulting in poor respiration and decreased oxygen to the body. This can lead to fatigue, poor
circulation, and an increase in the sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response of stress and

Furthermore, forward head posture, has also been shown to significantly impact cervical proprioception,
or the ability to know where your body is in space based on the location of your neck and head. Forward
head posture has a negative effect on the muscle spindle activity involved in proprioception, resulting in
cervical repositioning errors and deficits of dynamic balance ability. In other words, having your head in
too forward of a position can lead to the brain misjudging where it is in space causing a tendency
towards balance issues and falls. Interestingly enough, with the brain not accurately perceiving where it
is in space, proper movement is inhibited leading to a fear of moving and walking around. Movement is
essential to give input to the brain and without input, the brain can begin to decay. Research shows that
“Mobility and upright posture is associated with aspects of cognition including memory. These results
provide the first evidence for a link between postural alignment and cognitive function in healthy older
adults”. When we see individuals suffering with dementia, they have a characteristic hunched forward
posture which tends to be associated with being elderly or being of “old age”. Again, this is because when there is a decline in upright posture and the posture system, cognitive function and capabilities
are impacted as we resist gravity, and hence there is a reduction in cognitive output.

Lastly, Tech neck posture due to smartphone and electronics use has also been seen to cause negative
effects on a person’s psychological status such as depression and this has more to do then with just
screen time and viewed content. Research has shown there is a direct connection between posture and
mood. Typically, when a person has hunched forward posture, they exhibit feelings and emotions of
being closed, depressed, and have less self-perceived leadership. On the flip side, someone with more
upright and open posture is perceived as being more confident, positive, approachable and tends to
express positive self-image, thoughts, and memory recall. There is a correlation between muscle
activation and activation of different areas in the brain and due to this, change in psychological status
and slumped forward posture, is now a diagnostic factor of depression.

It has been said that, “Tech neck posture is a posture of neurologic decline” and even though it is now
“normal,” it is not ideal. By identifying postural distortions, correcting them with gentle chiropractic
adjustments to improve spinal curvature, utilizing physical therapy to address muscular imbalance,
working on postural stretching and strengthening exercises, etc. one can better stimulate their
neurological system. Also, by implementing a few tips such as paying attention to workplace
ergonomics, lifting your smartphones to eye level while viewing, and working to remind yourself to use
proper posture, you can improve your blood flow, decrease pain and symptomatology, have healthy
balance, obtain greater cognition and improve mood. Give yourself the gift of good posture and
experience improved quality of life today.

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