Have you ever spotted your profile in the mirror and wondered “Um, what the heck is that behind my neck?!” If not… that moment may be in your future. *ominous music* Today we’re sharing tips for how to fix tech neck, also known as a dowager’s hump — which, despite its name, doesn’t just affect women.
(Whichever dude named it must have also been the one to come up with the phrase “old wives’ tale.”)
What Is a Dowager’s Hump or Tech Neck?
The actual name for Dowager’s hump is kyphosis — and the chronic neck pain and stiffness called “tech neck” can eventually lead to the condition. Both of them are caused by bad posture; tech neck (aka “text neck”) specifically comes from repeatedly hunching over your phone, tablet, and other devices, and also can produce headaches and shoulder pain. Your head weighs about 10 pounds, after all.
We’re not going to tackle other potential causes of kyphosis, which include osteoporosis and fractures, though preventing osteoporosis could be a great topic for another post for readers of all ages.
For a personal side to this: I’m in my 40s, and a few months ago, I spotted what appeared to be a humped area at the base of my neck. My first thought was, “Um, has it always been like this, and this is normal, or is it new?!”
(My mom and late grandmother both have/had osteoporosis and a dowager’s hump, so I was a bit freaked out.)
I, of course, forgot to ask my doctor at my recent physical whether I’m just imagining it, but I did immediately start following advice for proper phone use.
I now try to hold my phone at eye level to avoid putting my head down and hunching my shoulders. True to form, I also googled a couple of exercises to do and subsequently forgot about the printout — but today we’re providing lots more info than that!
Related: Better Ergonomics at the Office
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Tips to Help Prevent Tech Neck and Dowager’s Hump
Recline your desk chair. I don’t know about you, but I had always thought you’re supposed to sit up straight while using the computer. In fact (oops), this tends to overwork your neck muscles. It’s best to recline your chair at least 25-30 degrees. Make sure your screen is at eye level, too.
Kat has recommended this monitor riser in the past, and Elizabeth recently suggested this laptop stand .
Get up and move around during the workday. This is good advice in general, of course. It’s easy to set alarms on your phone or use apps like these to give yourself reminders to not stay seated for long periods of time at the office or at home. (They can help you remember to drink water, too.)
NPR reported earlier this year on a study that found that even taking a 5-minute walk every 30 minutes can significantly counteract the harmful effects of sitting for hours.
Regularly do targeted stretching/exercises. Try these suggestions from experts:
- 10 Tech Neck Exercises to Relieve Tension from Your Upper Body (from a physical therapist) [Self]
- Best Exercises to Improve Dowager’s Hump (from various experts) [Shape]
Related: Petite Office Ergonomics (and: How Does Your Office Handle Ergonomics?
Tips to Fix Tech Neck and Improve Your Posture in General
We’ve talked before about improving your posture, and back then, readers mentioned core- and back-strengthening exercises (and strength training in general), yoga, Pilates, The Dailey Method, The Gokhale Method, and the book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy.
Here are some specific exercises to try:
- 8 Rear Delt Exercises That’ll Help Improve Your Posture [Self]
- 5 Simple Exercises Than Can Help Improve Your Posture [Real Simple]
- (video) Better Posture Workout — Exercises to Improve Posture and Prevent Hunched Shoulders [FitnessBlender]
- (video) Yoga For Healthy Posture — Yoga Tips [Yoga with Adriene]
Of course, if you have any neck, back, and/or shoulder pain that you’re worried about, talk to your doctor!
Readers, do tell: Have you tried to fix tech neck or prevent a dowager’s hump? Do you have issues with your posture, or any neck and shoulder pain in general? Any recs for exercises or videos like those above that really helped you to see improvement?
Pssst: Some of our Favorite Tools for Better Ergonomics at the Office
Pictured, some of our favorite tools for better ergonomics at the office as of 2023…
I’ve really liked Peleton’s mobility classes. The neck one would be good for this.
Thanks for mentioning this! I did not know peloton had mobility videos.
From my experience with many physical therapists…. the key things to remember for good posture, optimizing muscles for minimizing neck and back pain.
Put your shoulders into your back pocket (prevent rounding of shoulders/slouch)
Pull your belly button back towards your spine (engages your core)
I try to remember to always sit as if I were still in orchestra. I think posture trumps chair.
Sort of on topic – can we talk about good desk chairs? Does anyone have a Knoll Generation chair? How do you like it?
Ugh I’m definitely experiencing this and it’s really wreaking havoc on my self-esteem (compounding with the 60 extra pounds I’m currently carrying). I have some at-home exercises to do from a chiropractor that correspond to the article from Shape linked in this article.