How to Relieve and Prevent Tech-Neck Pain, According to Experts

I can’t remember a time when my neck and shoulders actually felt good. My family got our first computer when I was in middle school, and after a right-of-passage teenage debate with my parents, I got a cell phone in high school—which, by my calculations, means my posture has been a mess for about 25 years.

In my 20s, when I began spending the majority of my days bent over a laptop, my neck pain became unbearable. I’d regularly sneak away from my office job and scoot over to a nearby nail salon where I’d pay about a dollar a minute for a 10- to 15-minute neck and shoulder massage. It was life-changing, but in recent years I’ve kind of accepted that (1) I can’t spend money like that; and (2) much like eating, breathing, and sleeping, neck strain seems to just be a part of life. 

If you can relate, there’s a good chance we’re both dealing with “tech neck,” a painful musculoskeletal issue that can develop due to the chronic stress people put on their necks by constantly looking down at their devices with poor posture. Estimates suggest up to 40% of people suffer from some degree of neck pain caused by scrolling, texting, or typing. This pain can be sharp and throbbing or dull and achy. It can stay localized in the neck or even travel to your shoulders and shoot down your back (yay).

Your spine is made up of a delicate interplay of bones, soft tissue, and ligaments that can easily get out of whack—especially if you’re glued to your devices all day, Erich Anderer, MD, chief of neurosurgery at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, tells SELF. Your head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, Dr. Anderer explains, and when you tilt it down (as you do while, say, texting), you put a lot of pressure on your neck. “When you have strain in the neck, or anything that throws the alignment out of balance, that can sometimes manifest itself as pain,” he says. 

It may seem like neck strain is inevitable, depending on how hooked to your devices you may be (speaking for myself here)—but most people who struggle with tech neck can find relief with a few simple tricks, Dr. Anderer says. Here are four of them to try.

Reset your posture.

Most tech-neck advice focuses on correcting posture. While that’s for good reason (after all, tech neck is a complication that stems from hovering over devices), it’s not necessarily realistic to sit upright all day with your head poised directly above your spine. “Our lives are sort of set up for this bad ergonomic posture,” Dr. Anderer explains. There’s really no good position for your neck to be in all day if you work at a desk, say, or on a factory line.

This is all to say: Don’t beat yourself up if your posture is crappy most of the time. Many of us are in the same boat. But if you’re doing your thing and suddenly become aware that you’re hunched over like a gargoyle, it can be helpful to give yourself a reset. Shifting your posture throughout the day and breaking out of a static position can decrease any discomfort that’s building in your neck, a 2021 study found. 

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