As a healthcare professional, it might feel like you spend an inordinate amount of time staring at screens. After all, 84% of US physicians use their smartphones for professional purposes,1 and the average clinician spends more than half of his or her working hours on EHR tasks.2
The result of all that researching, emailing, texting, and managing patient records? Tech neck: pain, soreness, and stiffness in the neck that over time can lead to a variety of health issues including muscle strains, nerve impingement, and disk injury.
Unfortunately, like your patients, you are not immune to this ailment. Keep these 7 tips in mind to prevent tech neck while working at your practice:
1. Pay Attention to Posture
Posture likely isn’t the first thing on your mind when you’re sifting through medical records and composing time-sensitive emails. But you can break the habit of poor posture with a simple trick: place a sweatshirt, towel, or other soft material between your lower back and your chair. The material should be approximately 3 inches thick. Doing this will give your lumbar spine the support it needs.
2. Keep Devices at Eye Level
Elevate your monitor to eye level using a monitor stand. Alternatively, invest in a transitional or standing desk. In addition to correcting tech neck, these desks can help you burn calories by keeping you on your feet.
3. Use a Headrest
If your chair doesn’t have a headrest, it’s worth switching to one that does. Make sure the back of your head stays in contact with the headrest while you sit. This will ensure you aren’t looking down with your neck flexed forward.
Stretching is a great preventive measure that is not time-intensive and can be integrated into the day. Try the behind-the-back stretch:
- Stand tall with your arms to the side
- Reach both hands behind your back and grab your right wrist with your left hand
- Pull gently and tilt your head to the left
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch hands and repeat
With a demanding schedule it can be difficult to find time for exercise, but try to incorporate any or all of the following into your daily routine:
- Take a walk outside between seeing patients
- Set exercise goals and wear an activity tracker to monitor your progress
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your car toward the back of the lot or on a nearby street so you can walk a bit longer at the beginning and end of your day
6. Set Time Limits and Reminders
Rather than leave all your digital tasks for the end of the day, try to space them out. To stay on track, set reminders on your smartphone or smartwatch. These will help you limit the duration you spend working on the computer.
7. Stay Hydrated
As a clinician, you know the importance of staying hydrated. But the reality is you’re on the go all day and it’s easy to forget the basics. Aim to drink 8 glasses of water on a daily basis. You can set reminders on your smartphone to stay on track for this, too.
In addition to following these 7 steps, remain alert to the warning signs of tech neck: stiffness in your neck, headaches, pain between the shoulder blades, and numbness in your arms. For additional tips about preventing tech neck, click here.
- Physicians’ usage of smartphones for professional purposes in the US from 2012 to 2015. Statista. Accessed September 26, 2018.
- Arndt BG, Beasley JW, Watkinson MD, et al. Tethered to the EHR: primary care physician workload assessment using EHR event log data and time-motion observations. Ann Fam Med. 2017;15(5):419-426.