Can a neck brace help tech neck?

Answered by James Kissner

Neck braces, also known as cervical collars, have long been used to support and immobilize the neck after injuries such as whiplash or fractures. However, their use in treating cervical lordosis associated with “tech neck” or forward head posture is a relatively new concept.

Tech neck, also known as text neck, is a condition that occurs when people spend extended periods of time with their heads forward and shoulders hunched over while using electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. This prolonged poor posture can lead to an abnormal curvature of the cervical spine, specifically a loss of the normal lordotic curve.

The normal cervical lordosis is a gentle inward curve of the neck that helps to distribute the weight of the head and maintain proper alignment of the vertebrae. When this curve is lost or reversed due to forward head posture, it can put excessive strain on the neck muscles, ligaments, and discs, leading to pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Now, the question arises: Can a neck brace help tech neck? The use of a rigid neck brace or collar may indeed be an option to help treat abnormal cervical lordosis associated with forward head posture. Here’s why:

1. Postural support: A neck brace can provide external support and help to maintain a more upright posture. By limiting the range of motion and encouraging proper alignment, it can help alleviate the strain on the neck muscles and allow the cervical lordosis to gradually return to its normal curve.

2. Reminder to maintain good posture: Wearing a neck brace can serve as a constant reminder to maintain a proper posture while using electronic devices. It can help break the habit of slouching or hunching forward and encourage individuals to sit or stand with their heads aligned over their shoulders.

3. Pain relief: The use of a neck brace may also provide temporary pain relief by reducing the load on the cervical spine and relieving pressure on the affected structures. However, it is important to note that a neck brace should not be relied upon as the sole treatment for tech neck. It should be used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions such as exercises, stretching, and ergonomic adjustments.

It is worth mentioning that while a neck brace can be beneficial in certain cases, it is not a long-term solution. Prolonged use of a neck brace may lead to muscle weakness and dependency on external support. Therefore, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or chiropractor, who can assess your specific condition and provide guidance on the appropriate use of a neck brace.

In addition to using a neck brace, there are several other strategies that can help manage and prevent tech neck. These include:

1. Taking regular breaks: Make a conscious effort to take breaks from electronic devices every 20-30 minutes. Use this time to stretch, move around, and change your posture.

2. Ergonomic adjustments: Ensure that your workspace is ergonomically designed to promote proper posture. Adjust the height of your chair, position your monitor at eye level, and use a supportive chair with good lumbar support.

3. Strengthening exercises: Engage in exercises that target the neck and upper back muscles to improve strength and posture. These may include chin tucks, shoulder retractions, and neck stretches.

4. Mindful device use: Be mindful of your posture while using electronic devices. Hold your phone or tablet at eye level rather than looking down, and position your laptop screen so that you can maintain an upright posture.

While a neck brace can be a helpful tool in the treatment of tech neck and abnormal cervical lordosis, it should be used in conjunction with other interventions and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It can provide postural support, serve as a reminder to maintain good posture, and offer temporary pain relief. However, it is important to address the underlying causes of tech neck and adopt healthy habits to prevent further strain on the neck and spine.