If you spend the majority of your day looking at a computer screen or mobile device and suffer from symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and muscle strain, you could be experiencing a condition known as “tech neck.” Don’t let the name fool you — this malady doesn’t affect just techies — it can impact anyone who spends too much time staring at a screen.

“The people getting hit the hardest are people using their cellphones outside of the office,” said Dr. Jeremy Heisler, a chiropractor at Kirkland Life Chiropractic.

“The reason that (tech neck) has become significant is because (technology) has become so ubiquitous,” he said. “Everyone has a smartphone.”

Even if you work in an ergonomic environment, Heisler said, it’s no guarantee you’re safe from developing the condition. After all, ergonomics aren’t one-size-fits-all, and even positioning your head slightly off center can open the door for tech-neck symptoms to start creeping in.

“If your head is 1 inch forward of your normal center of balance, it physiologically makes your head weigh 10 pounds more,” Heisler said.

Over time, he said, that added strain can cause serious side effects.

With people spending more time in front of their screens both on and off the clock, Heisler said, it’s important to be proactive and know how to recognize signs of tech neck as soon as they start.

“The initial symptomology that shows up the most is fatigue and headaches,” he said. The earlier symptoms are identified, the sooner chiropractors like Heisler can jump in and begin undoing the damage.

There are simple steps people can take to help prevent or minimize the occurrence of tech neck altogether. Spine-Health.com offers these tips to stop tech neck in its tracks:

  • Limit the time you spend using your device, and take a three-minute break every 15-20 minutes.
  • Set reminders that can alert you when it’s time to take a break.
  • If you have a tablet, use a tablet holder to elevate your device closer to eye level, reducing neck flexion.
  • Use a chair with a headrest to ensure your head is in the proper position.
  • Take action at the first sign of pain in your neck, numbness or tingling in the arms, or frequent headaches. — Margo Greenman