How to Avoid Gamer’s Neck

By Tracy Wright
Boy plays video game at his desk

We’ve all heard that infamous phrase from our parents or grandparents: “Sit up straight!” or “Don’t slouch!” As annoying as it may have been, they were simply making sure we practiced good posture, something that benefits people both physically and aesthetically for years to come.
Unfortunately, modern technology like smart phones and video games has negatively impacted our adolescent’s posture. More tweens, teens and young adults are seen hunching over their smart devices or video game console, sometimes for hours at a time.

What is Gamer’s Neck?

Known technically as kyphosis, it is “the rounding of the spine due to poor posture,” said Dr. David Skaggs, director of Pediatric Orthopaedics at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s Hospital. “Postural kyphosis happens when a person’s regular hunching forward stretches muscles and ligaments, pulling the spine out of its normal curvature and into an unnaturally rounded shape.”

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, postural kyphosis influenced by technology has become known as “gamer’s neck.”

Positions for playing video games

How Does it Affect Our Posture?

According to the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, staring at a mobile or gaming device affects our posture in three ways:

“Looking down places the head and neck in a position that requires continual muscle activity to maintain. Forward head posture places abnormal forces on the structure in the neck.
Remaining in the forward head position for long periods causes repetitive stress on joints, muscles, and nerve structures in the head and neck.”

In addition to pain in back muscles, kyphosis can complicate physical functions over time, cause acid reflux by compression of the spine, and could initiate body image and self-esteem problems due to a rounded back, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If it turns out your child is suffering from typical postural kyphosis, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute recommends actively adjusting one’s posture to help relieve gamer’s neck: “Straighten up, keep your phone or device at eye level to relieve straining, and squeeze your shoulder blades together to strengthen back muscles.”

How Can You Stop Gamer’s Neck From Happening?

Setting screen time limits for teens is a good rule of thumb for many reasons, least of which is to help improve their posture and give their muscles a break. Limit their digital play time to two hours or less a day, as noted by Direct Orthopedic Care.

For children who enjoy gaming, buy proper ergonomic chairs and keyboards. According to Direct Orthopaedic Care, “This will eliminate slouching and decrease pressure on their spine and wrists which can lead to poor posture and nerve impingement.” Finally, encourage break time while playing to relieve sore muscles.

If you believe your child has a more serious condition, the Mayo Clinic suggests getting evaluated with a physical examination. Doctors then may elect to order x-rays, MRI or neurological tests to ensure their poor posture is not something that may require more invasive interventions.

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