Q: How many hours per day does the average American adult spend in front of a screen (including television, computer monitor, smartphones, tablets, etc.)?
A) Less than 1 hour
B) 1-3 hours
C) 3-5 hours
D) 5-8 hours
E) 8+ hours
Well, according to Ball State University and the Council for Research Excellence, the answer is E) 8+ hours per day. Their study found that the average American adult spends 8 hours in front of a screen every day. For the 45-54 age group, it was more like 9 hours.
In short: we spend more time staring at a screen than we do sleeping.
This trend comes with a whole host of obvious health risks, including obesity, vision problems and often neck pain. In fact, 34.4% of adults in this British study reported experiencing neck pain in the last year, with office workers and computer users experiencing the highest prevalence.
Symptoms Associated with Neck Pain
- Stiffness or tenderness
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle weakness
These symptoms may not be limited to the neck. You may also experience pain, numbness or tingling in your shoulders, arms or hands.
Acute Pain Relief
So what can you do if your neck has become a pain in the well, neck? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers these recommendations for treating minor neck pain:
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat
- (think warm shower, heating pad, etc.) after that. To prevent injuring your skin, don't fall asleep with a heating pad or ice bag in place.
- Do slow range-of-motion exercises, up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear. This helps to gently stretch the neck muscles.
- Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful areas.
Easing (Or Preventing) Chronic Pain
If you use a computer as part of your job, neck pain may be more than an occasional annoyance. Here are some strategies to consider:
Stretch: One of the easiest things you can do is simply stretch more often. Stretch every day, particularly before and after exercise. If you work at a computer, try to stretch your neck every hour or so. But stretching incorrectly can lead to more pain or injury, so be sure to use proper technique. The Mayo Clinic recommends these easy stretching exercises you can do without leaving your desk.
Think ergonomically: When you're at work, make good posture a priority. Keep your back supported, and adjust your computer monitor to eye level to avoid constantly looking up and down. Use a headset instead of a hand-held telephone receiver, especially if answering the phone is a major part of your job. When reading or typing from documents at your desk, place them in a holder at eye level.
Adjust your sleep habits:Make sure your pillow is properly and comfortably supporting your head and neck. You may need a special neck pillow or a firmer mattress.