I got my first iPhone® in 2012, the same year I joined Instagram®. In other words, I’ve accumulated at least eight years of tech neck. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed it in photos just as much as I’ve started to feel it in my upper back and shoulders.
“In my practice, we have a lot of younger patients coming in who feel like they have a double chin because they are constantly looking down at their phone or computer,” says Leif Rogers, MD, FACS, board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Blush Beverly Hills℠. The irony, of course, is that thanks to social media, we’re more on display than ever — so in addition to aggravating our neck lines with technology, we’re that much more likely to notice the impact in a selfie.
With almost a decade of aggregated tech posture behind me, I wasn’t exactly going to erase the effects overnight. All in all, it’s taken a few years and a perfect storm of aesthetic treatments, posture-affirming exercises, and some good old-fashioned digital detox to fade the lines on my neck. I even have recent selfies to prove my long-earned results. Keep reading to discover the tech neck-fighting tips that I’ve come to live by.
Tech Neck Treatment Tip #1: Start at the source of your bad posture.
“You walk like a New Yorker,” my boyfriend has said of my heavy, borderline-aggressive gait. After more than four years in LA, it’s frankly something I held onto as a badge of honor — a subconscious memento, perhaps, of my former life on the other coast.
It wasn’t until I was in a private session last year at Erika Bloom Pilates℠, an airy, celeb-frequented space, that I learned that my walk probably wasn’t worth the NYC nostalgia. In fact, it was contributing to my terrible posture (and some pesky foot pain at that). I was leaning into my arches, which tilted my pelvis, which ultimately rounded my shoulders. It didn’t help that I was feeding this vicious loop from the top down every time I looked down at my phone.
I left the studio with the recommendation to shift my weight to the outer edges of my feet and a newfound fascination in posture’s ripple effect across the body. Could learning to stand up straighter ultimately help mitigate the neck lines wrought by my tech neck?
As the saying goes, awareness is the first step — a notion that Susannah Cotrone (former ballerina and co-founder of Cotrone Pilates℠) very much subscribes to. “Most of us are not aware of all the habitual things we do that damage our posture over time,” she says. “It may seem that these actions are unavoidable, but when we start to think about them, that’s the beginning of preserving our health and maintaining good posture.”
Ultimately, this means taking some time to simply observe the way we move throughout the day. “Start by watching how you get in and out of the car, and even how you have the seat set when you drive,” suggests Cotrone. “Decide to end that call instead of holding the phone with your shoulder while you carry your groceries into the house. Have you been hunching over your computer? Then you need to lay flat on the floor or stand up straight against a wall, and undo that rounded position with a few minutes flat on a flat surface.” They may seem relatively inconsequential, but these little shifts start to add up over time.
Tech Neck Treatment Tip #2: Choose posture-driven exercises.
For my posture, I’d much rather hit a yoga class than run five miles. But beyond trying to focus on building up my core and general alignment through regular vinyasas and reformer pilates, it’s also been about adopting small rituals outside the gym — things like regular stretch breaks and tiny reminders to sit up a little straighter.
One of my all-time favorite tricks comes courtesy of Lauren Pack, RN, one half of the sister duo behind bicoastal aesthetics destination GoodSkin℠: When I complained about my neck lines and overdeveloped shoulders during a consultation a couple of years ago, she suggested I stick circular red stickers in random places around my apartment and office, which would serve as a visual reminder to sit up straight, roll my shoulders back, and unclench my jaw. “Soon enough, you’ll start doing it automatically whenever you’re at a red light,” she said. Needless to say, my posture during my commute is now a firm A+.
Another life hack? “Working with a wall is a good way to get tactile feedback about how straight your [posture] is,” says Cotrone. “Simply lean back against it with your feet about a foot away from the wall, and see if your whole spine and head can touch the wall. This helps you spread your chest open and is actually a great core workout because you need to pull your abs in to press your back against the wall.”
Tech Neck Treatment Tip #3: Treat the lines.
Now that my foundation of better posture was in place (or getting there, anyway), it was time to address the creases that had taken up residence on my neck. “In extreme cases, a surgical neck lift or platysmaplasty can be done to tighten and remove extra skin,” explains Dr. Rogers. My neck bands, however, were more annoying than extreme — so which non-invasive options were on the menu?
From Dr. Rogers’ POV, radiofrequency treatments like FORMATM and Profound® RF have the edge for their skin-tightening abilities — especially for younger clients looking for a subtler boost. They target the deepest layers of the skin with heat and radiofrequency waves, which stimulate collagen and address sagging almost instantaneously. It’s something I witnessed firsthand when I ultimately opted for a few rounds of FORMA: The sculpting effect was nothing short of remarkable, especially when my practitioner compared the “done” side of my face to the untreated side (before evening things out, of course).
FORMA is also the gift that keeps on giving: Results compound over time, and I watched my jawline sharpen as the lines on my neck started to fade. The next and final challenge, of course, would be maintaining my results.
Tech Neck Treatment Tip #4: Reform tech habits.
Now that I had a solid foundation of posture exercises and aesthetic help under my belt, it seemed completely foolish to unravel it all with the same old tech habits. And, I knew that simply remembering to “sit up” or roll my shoulders back while texting wasn’t going to cut it. Nope: This seemed like the perfect opportunity to dial back some of my screen usage, which wasn’t doing my mental health any favors either.
I began by forcing myself to turn my phone off when I came home from work, since I only ever mindlessly scroll through Instagram during the evenings anyway. Then, I tapped into my competitive streak, vowing to beat Apple’s® weekly screen time report every time it popped up on my phone. (I’m currently hovering around the three-hour-a-day mark, down from five — still not ideal, but worlds better from where I started.)
Soon enough, I started to zero in on a multitude of tiny shifts. Instead of sitting hunched over my laptop in bed, I began forcing myself to do work at the kitchen table. And, I deleted all my social media accounts, except Instagram, to help mitigate the mindless scrolling. I also realized that, with my closest friends, I actually prefer talking on the phone or over FaceTime® to texting. All of these little things really add up, to the point that I feel much freer from the trappings of technology — within reason, of course. (I’m still a millennial-blooded human being, after all.)
Did I anticipate that finding a solution for my tech neck would snowball into a complete lifestyle overhaul, from my social media habits to (quite literally) the way I walk? Not exactly. But perhaps my experience is a testament to the fact that while we’re lucky to live in a world with so many quick solutions at our fingertips, sometimes time is still the key ingredient for truly meaningful change. The better selfies are just a sweet bonus.
Complimentary treatment was provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.