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How staring at screens is leading to 'tech neck'

Symptoms include not only headaches and neck pain but also double chins and deep wrinkles.

AUSTIN, Texas — Smartphones, tablets and laptops have transformed the way people communicate and do business. But these tech tools have also given rise to new physical condition known as “tech neck,” and the pain is real.

“Tech neck is the new carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive-use injury that can lead not only to headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and tingling in the hands, but also deep wrinkles,” said New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Westreich.

Deep, horizontal lines in the neck and double chins are the cosmetic consequences of keeping the head tilted downward for long periods of time, Westreich said.

"Just like carpal tunnel, which is an overused syndrome, where you're doing something that's not natural with your hand repeatedly, doing the same thing to your neck puts strain on the spinal column, the muscles," Westreich said. "There are some of the nerve roots, and it puts a compressive force on the neck, which causes these wrinkles to develop."

The plastic surgeon said as far as cosmetic procedure solutions, patients that have issues with their jawline can do some noninvasive tightening procedures. For the deep lines in the neck, patients can get filler and do some skin tightening.

"But all of it, whether it's the cosmetic or the medical, it's important to modify your behavior, to change the way that you're looking at your phone or get a laptop stand or something along those lines. Otherwise, the issues will just come back," Westreich said.

As far as natural solutions, Westreich suggested doing strengthening exercises to the muscles at the back of the neck. Booking an appointment for acupressure, acupuncture and even medical massage is all highly effective. 

"Once you recognize that this may be an issue, especially if it's just like you're just having new onset headaches as something you haven't experienced before, it actually may be the result of this," Westreich said. "So the the treatments are all relatively noninvasive as well for the medical and the cosmetic."

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