“Tech Neck:” How Too Much Screen Time Can Cause Thoracic Outlet syndrome (TOS)

Technology is everywhere, pervasive in our day-to-day lives. We get our news from technology, work using technology, and connect with our community via technology. Advances in this field are also contributing to drug development, research, agriculture, and numerous other fields. Yet the overuse of technology can lead to negative side effects. For example, reports Liz Bonis of WKRC, poor posture—such as craning the neck down to look at a screen—has led to increasing cases of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). 

Thoracic outlet syndrome refers to a group of rare conditions in which nerves, arteries, or blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest (thoracic outlet) are compressed or irritated; the condition is considered arterial, venous, or neurogenic depending on the specific compression. The neurogenic form, which is caused by compressed nerves, makes up around 95% of cases. 

We already know some of what causes TOS: old fractures or bone tissue abnormalities, pregnancy, a cervical rib, car accidents, or repetitive injuries that typically result from your job or playing sports. But now we’re recognizing that slumping over to look at your phone or computer can be just as damaging. 

Physical therapy and pain medication can help you manage your TOS symptoms. Stretching and finding ways to relieve tension are also ways to reduce some of the pain in your neck. If you’re looking to prevent thoracic outlet syndrome from technology use, make sure to take some time each day to step away from the screens.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) Symptoms and Treatment

If you have thoracic outlet syndrome, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Tingling or numbness in the neck, shoulder, hand, arm, or fingers
  • A weakened grip
  • Arm, neck, shoulder, hand, or finger pain
  • “Coldness” or inflammation of the affected limb
  • Bluish discoloration of the hands
  • Limited range of motion
  • Prominent veins
  • Blood clot formation
  • Arm fatigue that worsens with activity

Outside of physical therapy and pain medication, you might be given thrombolytic medication to control your blood clots (if they develop). Surgery is also used in some more extreme cases.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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