You see this phenomenon everywhere – be it in homes and offices, walking down the street, riding the bus, or standing in line, everyone has their head down and their eyes glued to mobile phones.
Although the occasional scrolling of Facebook may not seem like much, it all adds up – in 2019, it was found that Americans spent a daily average of five hours and 53 minutes with digital media, including three hours and 17 minutes a day on non-voice activities on mobile devices, according to eMarketer.
Here’s another fact that may shock you: regular hunching over a mobile phone is causing almost everyone to suffer from a stress injury called tech/text neck, and this injury not only causes you to suffer from pains, but also age much faster than you realise.
What is tech neck, and how is it caused?
To understand how tech neck is affecting you, you need to first understand what causes this to occur.
“Tech neck” is a term commonly used by medical professionals to describe a repetitive stress injury where your muscles are excessively stressed while using phones, tablets, and computers, typically resulting in neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and soreness.
What happens is that you’re working on a computer or looking down at your phone, the muscles in the back of your neck have to contract to hold your head up. The more you look down, the more the muscles have to work to keep your head up. When you hold your head at a 45-degree angle or greater, the physical stress placed on your neck gets dangerously high.
Have you ever been told to sit up straight when working at your computer? You’d be surprised to know that this is incorrect advice that could be putting further stress on your neck and causing you to get tech neck! When you sit with your back straight, you not only put a lot of force on the discs in your lower back, but also force the muscles in the back of your neck to contract to hold the head up.
Is tech neck preventable, and how can I prevent it?
The good news is that even though tech neck is very prevalent, it is definitely preventable.
The easiest way to prevent tech neck is, of course, to cut down on your mobile device usage. Let’s admit it – most of us don’t need to be looking at our phones as often as we do, it is just a habit we’ve developed.
Set aside pockets of time in a day where no devices are allowed, and once you’ve managed to accomplish this for a week, try making these no-device intervals longer in the following week. These may seem like small steps, but will definitely pay off in the long run.
However, if your job does require you to spend long hours at the computer or always be on your phone, what you can do instead is to make sure that you practise good posture habits all day.
Relax your head, neck, and shoulder – they should be in a neutral position, where only your eyes are lowered to look down at your devices. It is also good to do some simple neck strengthening exercises throughout the day: slowly move your head from left to right, then up and down.
What are the physical repercussions of tech neck?
We also have some bad news for those of us who have been hunched over a phone or computer for too many years: shoulder joint and neck pain are not the only physical repercussions that you have to deal with.
Shoulder joints and neck pain
As mentioned earlier, stressing the muscles in the back of your neck and shoulder for long durations can cause you to suffer in pain.
However tempting it is to try and rectify your pain yourself through means such as cracking your neck, here’s what you need to know: cracking your neck too forcefully can pinch the nerves in your neck and make it difficult or impossible to move your neck, or even further strain the muscles that you are trying to relax – not quite the result you are looking for!
You are encouraged to seek the help of myotherapists who can carry out myotherapy, a form of physical therapy that treats and manages musculoskeletal pain.
This should not be confused with your regular spa massages or physiotherapies: it is a more hands-on treatment that uses a varied range of massage techniques to treat muscle pain. Hence, myotherapists are equipped with enhanced skill sets such as exercise prescription, nutrition, biomechanics and postural assessment.
Take Amaris B. Clinic’s qualified Clinical Myotherapist, Ronald Villegas, as an example: one of the few myotherapists in Singapore, Ronald helps patients with tech neck with a comprehensive treatment plan. First, he identifies a patient’s triggers and lifestyle habits, before doing hands-on therapy to treat the muscle pain. He then works closely with the patient to create personalised solutions that can reduce the pain from tech neck and prevent inflammation in the long run.
According to Dr. Kormeili, a board-certified dermatologist from the United States, constantly looking down affects the skin underneath your chin, causing it to sag – the same way that gravity takes a toll on your skin as you get older due to a depletion in collagen and skin tissue becoming laxer.
If you’ve noticed that a double chin has developed thanks to years of looking down at your mobile phone, don’t panic: you can seek medical help.
SmartLipo is one of the options available if you are looking for a minimally-invasive fat reduction treatment for a small fat area. The results you get from this treatment are permanent as it dissolves the fat cells which are then unable to reproduce, so you do not have to worry about your long working hours at the computer giving you a double chin again in the future.
That being said, if you want to get natural results from your SmartLipo treatment, you need to make sure that you are seeking help from a good doctor who not only has the medical know-how but also an artistic sense to know how to shape your chin so that it looks best on you.
Consider Dr. Ivan Puah from Amaris B. Clinic, a doctor who combines both aesthetic sense and artistic mastery in order to create a sculpted, natural-looking face. He is an accredited doctor in Singapore with indisputable technical skill and a wealth of experience, having accumulated over 15 years of invaluable experience in aesthetic medicine. Dr. Ivan Puah has also been trained by French plastic surgeon, Dr. Pierre Francois Fournier, in medical procedures such as syringe liposculpture, fat grafting, and thread lift.
It’s not just your chin that’s getting pulled down by gravity when you look down at your phone – your neck is also prone to ageing much faster with the emergence of dreaded wrinkles. According to New York City dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Graf, the more your neck moves, the more you reinforce the lines on your neck!
Although neck wrinkles were once commonly associated with those in their forties or fifties, dermatologists have started reporting seeing patients that are in their thirties, or even younger. If you worry that you have joined the ranks, there are two aesthetic treatments that you can opt for in order to target different creases in your neck: Ultherapy and Botox.
Ultherapy is an FDA-approved non-invasive procedure that is used to treat landscape creases. It focuses ultrasound energy under your skin to trigger your body into generating collagen – a protein which can help the skin on your neck become firmer and younger-looking. It does not cut or disrupt the skin at all, and the lack of downtime means that you can even head straight back to the office, go for a swim, or head off on your beach holiday – no post-treatment restrictions at all!
However, beware of companies using counterfeit devices that may result in burns to the treated area – only a few providers in Singapore offer authentic Ultherapy treatment, one of them being Amaris B. Clinic.
For horizontal creases on the neck, a Botulinum toxin injection will do the trick instead. It is a naturally-purified protein that relaxes facial muscles to smooth unwanted wrinkles and stop deeper lines from forming on your neck with continued mobile phone usage.
Although there are beauty salons that offer Botulinum toxin injection services, take note that these service providers are running afoul of the law: only licensed medical practitioners, such as Amaris B. Clinic, are allowed to perform injectable procedures on patients in Singapore. This is because only these professionals have the medical know-how and use genuine FDA-approved Botulinum toxin injection to give safer results.