Technology and Neck Pain

Negative Effects of Technology

She walked into our physical therapy office and said “I think I have iPad neck.” Though not an official diagnosis I would change the terminology to iNeck or i-Itis. The technology revolution, specifically iPhones, iPads, smart phones, tablets etcetera has led to an increasing number of patients coming to us because of their “smart” injuries. Our office staff went paperless and started using iPads a few years ago, not one week into it my neck was incredibly sore, and I’m actually somewhat aware of my posture and body mechanics.

Socially annoying at times, constant use of technology has long term negative affects on the musculoskeletal system. Look around your office, home, school, and community, how many people are looking down? There is a plethora of people so engaged in their smart device that they cannot safely drive, cross a street, or engage in a simple conversation with another human being.


Although a somewhat boring topic reinforced typically by Mom’s, the wave of technology is making it almost impossible to maintain good posture. Have you ever seen anyone sending a text message while maintaining proper posture? For the youth in our community, who can send out thousands of text messages in a month, this has significant implications. The more time we spend looking down (as I’m doing right now while writing this) we take the natural curve out of our neck, we create increased strain on the posterior neck muscles, that can lead to neck pain, headache and jaw problems. When we look forward and down, we often reach our head forward, round our shoulders and hunch a bit, this places increased stress through the mid and low back as well as our shoulders.

The other negative, is touch screens. Touch screens, text messaging and iPods to name a few, all encourage the use of our thumbs, not all of our digits like a traditional keyboard. This translates into overusing our thumbs and a resulting tendonitis, or inflammation and pain in the thumbs.

Benefits of technology and Exercise

Although this new technology presents some postural and overuse problems, it also can bring many benefits for outdoor and fitness activities. There are some great Apps out there that can help you track the distance, elevation gain, speed etc. that you walk, jog or bike. This may also come in handy if you take a wrong turn on a trail. Apps like “Strava” can compare your bike time to others that have ridden the same course or trail. Apps like “MapMyRUN” can tell you the speed, distance and elevation gain as well as a visual map of the course you completed.

There are many great Apps available to guide your outdoor exercise and to help you with your goals and measure your accomplishments. Remember, although these smart devices have many benefits, the greatest long term benefit may be in limiting usage, and being very aware of  your posture when you are using your tablet, smart phone, touch screen technology.