Nerd neck isn’t a hard to find phenomenon. If you’re reading this article on a phone screen, or even on a bigger screen, there are very high chances that you’re sitting in a forward head posture, your neck slanting forwards and downwards, with rounded shoulders, hunched over – which are classical signs of nerd neck or ‘text neck’. It may also be referred to as anterior pelvic tilt or upper crossed syndrome. Although it is a bad posture, the good part is that you’re not stuck with it! It can easily and gradually be corrected.
How is Nerd Neck a Bad Posture
Posture is how one holds their body while performing day-to-day tasks. It is a result of one’s movement habits. Working while sitting on desks, reading for long duration, using mobiles and computers – are some of the activities which cause nerd neck. As mobiles and computers have become an integral part of life, the problem of ‘nerd neck’ can be seen very commonly.
Now as we spend a major part of our day on these devices, our body tends to adjust itself in the most comfortable position possible. The problem arises when this starts becoming a habit and we carry this with us even when not using the phone or sitting on a desk. Our body tends to adapt to changes slowly and when it adapts to such bad postures, a lot of problems arise with time.
Nerd neck, being a bad posture, harms your body in numerous ways, which may go unnoticed until they develop into serious medical issues. The human head weighs around 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). For every inch we tilt our head forwards, the weight that our neck has to carry doubles! Thus, the muscles, tendons and ligaments at the front of neck get compressed and tighten, while those at the back of the neck lengthen. This may result into chronic pain, numbness, pinched nerves and even in improper breathing.
How to Fix Nerd Neck
Fixing nerd neck, which is just a bad posture, is possible and easy. It is impossible to ditch the devices like mobiles, so we just need to remind our body to correct the posture regularly and the body itself will adapt back to the good posture. A good posture is when our body is in a neutral pose, and when the spine is not curved except for it’s natural curvatures. A good posture can not be forced. It develops slowly, when we break the inertia of the bad posture. Abruptly forcing ourselves to sit straight and tight, might even turn out to be counterproductive.
Follow these simple steps to confirm if you have ‘nerd neck’ –
- Stand with your back against the wall.
- Keep your feet at shoulder width.
- Make sure your shoulder blades touch the wall.
- Pay attention if your head touches the wall or not. If it does not touch the wall, the posture is not correct and you have nerd neck.
Stretches and Exercises
- Stretching the sides of your neck: Stand up or sit straight. Keeping your nose towards front, make your right ear slowly touch your right shoulder. Keep your right hand on your head, applying natural pressure. Do not apply too much pressure. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for left side. Do this 3 times each side.
- Stretching back of your neck: Stand up straight. Tilt your chin so that it touches your chest. Interlace your fingers behind your neck and let the natural weight of your hands on the back of your neck. Do not apply additional pressure. Do this for 30 seconds, 3 times. This stretch should be done regularly.
- Relieving occipital muscles with a massage ball: Occipital muscles are the small muscles at base of your skull where your head meets your neck. Their tightness can result in pain and dizziness. They can be relieved by a massage ball. Any small ball or roller may be used. Lie down on your back and keep the ball under your neck. Roll over your head, side to side. Do this for 5 minutes and on both the sides.
- Releasing SCM muscles at front of neck: The sternocleidomastoid muscles are the ones that run from near behind your ear to the middle of your throat. They should be massaged and lightly pinched up so as to separate them from underlying structures. The side to side stretch also relieves this muscle.
- Stretching chest muscles: Stand at a door. Put your right palm on door frame on your right, at the level of your shoulder. Keep your elbow at a 90° angle. Now keeping the hand in this position, take a step forwards. This will create a stretch in your right pectoral chest muscle. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat on the left side.
- Exercise shoulder blade squeezes: Sit straight in a chair with legs bent at 90° angle at knees, feet flat on floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the back towards each other making a concave gap between them. Hold for 3 seconds. Perform this 10 times. As you grow stronger, increase the hold up-to 10 seconds and perform 3 sets per day.
- Chin retraction: Sit straight in your chair and perform chin retraction and nose nods slowly and also allow the range of movement of your neck to increase. Perform this multiple times during your day.
- Cat-cow pose: This exercise helps create spinal awareness and relaxes multiple tensed areas of body. Get on all your four limbs. Shoulders should be above your wrist and hips above the knees. Front of your toes should be pressed against the floor. For cat pose, make a convex pose with your back raised in an arch, neck stretched downwards. Exhale during this. For the cow pose, make an opposite, concave shape with your belly turned towards ground, head facing upwards. Inhale during the cow pose. Repeat these two poses alternatively for 30 seconds or more.
If you’re wondering how many of the above exercises should be performed, the answer is – as many as possible! Nerd neck will not go away by any one particular miraculous exercise or stretch. It gets fixed slowly and by reminding our body repeatedly to correct it.
Changes in day-to-day Habits
- Setting up an ergonomic workstation: Adjust your computer screen so that the upper one-third of the screen is at your eye level. Also adjust the chair height so that your feet are flat on the ground.
- Improving phone habits: Try keeping your phone not a level, too low, so that you don’t have to keep your neck tilted downwards. Also, keep taking phone breaks and stretching during them.
- Avoid carrying heavy backpacks: Carrying heavy bags and purses can be a reason for bad posture too. Try keeping the bags light and distribute the weight evenly on both shoulders.
- Choose a supportive pillow: Choose a pillow that supports the natural curves of your spine. Too many pillows or wrong pillows too can cause nerd neck.
- Keep reminding your body: The key to get rid of nerd neck is practicing the good posture as much as possible. Keep reminding yourself to keep the posture correct during standing and even walking. Keep doing exercises and stretchings throughout the day.
If the nerd neck is causing severe or prolonged pain or any other medical issue, visit a medical professional.
- Nerd Neck: How to Fix Forward Head Posture (Absolute Life Wellness Center)
- 6 Chiropractor-Approved Exercises to Fight Text Neck (Healthline)
- How to Correct Forward Head Posture (WikiHow)
- Got nerd neck? Here’s how you can start to fix it! (Light Mind Body Strong)
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A medical student from Chirayu Medical College and Hospital, Bhopal. On constant lookout to share knowledge and provide answers related to the field of medicine.