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Do you have nerd neck?

27 Mar 2023 • 4 min read

Do you have nerd neck? We live in an age of technology, meaning we spend a big chunk of our day looking at our phone, laptop, television – you get the gist.

But did you know that this can have an impact on our posture? And that it can sometimes lead to something known as nerd neck? If you suspect that you might be developing this type of posture, keep reading to find out exactly what it is and how you can try and improve it.

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What is nerd neck?

Nerd neck is essentially just another name for forward head posture. This is when your head tilts forward, jutting past your shoulders rather than being in line with them. Biologically speaking, nerd neck is defined by the hyperextension of the upper cervical vertebrae (aka, the back bones of your spine) and the forward translation of it.1 Forward head posture may also cause:

  • pain in neck 2
  • headaches 
  • breathing issues 
  • reduced balance 5

The lowdown on nerd neck

Diving into this nerd neck phenomenon, you might be wondering just how many people it affects? While the specifics aren’t known, it seems to be a pretty common thing these days. In fact, one study from 2021 highlighted that this type of posture affects roughly 66% of the patient population.6 A different study on 101 Iranian office workers found that forward head posture was associated with neck pain.7

Other names for nerd neck

We’ve already mentioned two ways you can refer to this posture deviation, nerd neck and forward head posture. But what else is it known as? You might also see nerd neck referred to as:

  • text neck
  • gamer neck
  • tech neck

How people get nerd neck

 

Why does this happen? What causes it?

Annoyingly for office workers, spending a lot of your time looking at your computer or laptop can lend itself to this forward head posture. That’s why it’s best not to overlook your work setup and make sure that the top of your display screen equipment is in line with your eyes.8

But it’s not just computers and laptops that contribute to nerd neck. Our phones and tablets have a big role to play, too. Most people don’t hold their phones up to their eyelines, as it’s much easier to just look down, but if you’re doing this for multiple hours a day it may have an impact.

Tips for improving nerd neck

If you think you have nerd neck, all hope is not lost. In fact, a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis of previous research concluded that therapeutic exercises may help with the angle of your head and potentially even have some moderate improvements on neck pain.9 So, what kinds of therapeutic exercises can you do?

One 2019 study found that following a short course of targeted exercises helped to improve head posture.10 Here are some you can try at home:

  1. Head raises – lie on your stomach, gently resting your forehead on the floor and with your palms by your sides but facing upwards. Make sure you’re pulling your shoulder blades together. Then lift your head to try and press your chin to your chest, slowly moving it in line with your torso and then up to the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Chin tucks – lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor. Place your hands under the back of your head. Try to slowly move your chin until it touches your chest, but try not to lift your head. Repeat 10 times.
  3. Shoulder raises – sit up tall in a chair with your back firmly against the back rest and feet on the floor. Looking directly forward, lift your shoulders up to your ears and back down again. Repeat 10 times.
  4. Ear to shoulder – again, sit in a chair with your back supported and feet on the floor. Place your hand one on side of your head, then gradually move your head down on the opposite side to your hand until your ear is close to your shoulder. Hold this position for 15 seconds, then repeat on both sides for 10 times.
  5. Standing chin tucks – stand with your back against a wall and look straight ahead. Using your fingers as a guide, gently press on your chin until it is closer to your jaw. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Standing head turns – stand with your back against a wall and look straight ahead again. Slowly turn your head until your ear moves closer to the wall, then go back to centre. Repeat 10 times on each side.

The final say

Nerd neck can be a pain in the neck – and shoulder for that matter. But don’t worry as there are a range of different exercises you can do to try and correct your head posture. Why not give the ones we’ve listed a go today? Also, it’s important to see a GP if you’re concerned about your neck pain. This is especially the case if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks, painkillers don’t help, or you have additional symptoms like pins and needles or a cold arm.11

If you’re looking for more guidance on this kind of thing, we’ve got plenty more articles on supporting your Bones, Joints and Muscle Health for you to read.

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