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From the Desk of Nichola Adams

‘Text Neck’ – What Is It and How Can We Stop It?

With the ever increasing reliance on technology in the workplace, particularly with hybrid working now in full swing, it’s no secret that a significant amount of time is spent hunched over smartphones, tablets and laptops. However, this has given rise to a growing concern amongst the health and wellbeing community known as ‘text neck’ This term is commonly used to describe neck pain, repetitive strain injury, reduced mobility, forward head posture and headaches due to overuse of devices and incorrect posture.

To reduce the potential risks associated with ‘text neck’, adopting preventative measures and being as proactive as possible is essential. Whilst we can’t deny the growth in the use of technology, there are effective strategies you can put in place to reduce the risk of ‘text neck’ and maintain better posture while using your devices:

1.  Maintain Proper Posture

A cornerstone of ergonomics, the foundation for reducing pain when using devices lies in maintaining correct posture throughout the day. When using a laptop, ensure this is raised on a laptop stand (or available equipment) so that strain is not being placed on the neck by looking down at the screen. When using a monitor, the top of the screen should be eye level. This ensures your head and neck are aligned with your spine. You should also make sure you can relax your shoulders when using your devices.

 2. Take Frequent Breaks

One of the main causes of posture related pain is prolonged sitting in static positions. Through hybrid working, this has become a common issue, particularly amongst those who often have back to back meetings or tight deadlines. To combat this, incorporate frequent breaks into your routine. Every hour, move away from your devices in this time if you can to take a short walk, stretch and change position.

Simple exercises such as half neck rotations, shoulder rolls and chest stretches relieve tension and promote blood circulation. This can also lead to a boost in productivity from oxygen flowing in the brain.

3. Adjust Device Positioning

Where possible, make adjustments to the positioning of your devices to reduce strain on your neck. Using headphones and holding your phone up to eye level prevents excessive tilting of the head, which can be caused by cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear on a call or looking down at it to read a message.

When using a laptop on a stand or a monitor, make sure you are using a separate keyboard and mouse that are within a comfortable reach with your shoulders relaxed and your arms level with or slightly higher than the desk surface.

4. Be Mindful of Device Usage

As technology continues to develop and become further integrated into the workplace, it can seem hard to find a space or time where it doesn’t need to be used. If you have back to back meetings, schedule 10 minutes after every call to take a short break, move around and prepare for the next meeting. Try and put the devices away on your lunch break and go out for a walk or do an activity that doesn’t require them.

If you work from home, try and keep your work devices in a separate room so you can leave them in there at the end of the day to maintain a good work life balance.

5. DSE 1:1 Workstation Assessment

If you or your employees spend long hours using DSE equipment, a DSE 1:1 Workstation Assessment will highlight risks and provide advice and recommendations bespoke to you or your employee. Specialist equipment designed for prolonged use may be recommended to mitigate risks, improve comfort and encourage better posture to reduce strain on the body.

‘Text neck’ is a growing concern in a technology-driven society, but by implementing simple yet effective strategies, you can reduce neck and upper back pain. Maintaining proper posture, taking frequent breaks, adjusting your device positioning, being mindful of device usage and 1:1 assessments are all steps that can help alleviate and prevent the problem. By incorporating these habits, you and your employees can maximise the benefits of technology use whilst also safeguarding musculoskeletal health.

Nichola Adams

Founder of Inspired Ergonomics

Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF, ACPOHE Reg Member, is the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics.

Nichola is a specialist in back pain disorders in the workplace. Inspired Ergonomics regularly provides consultancy services to leading UK and International companies on how to reduce and prevent back pain in the workplace as well as working with rehabilitation companies.

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