Tech Neck Can Cause Jawline Swelling & Inflammation — How To De-puff the Area
For the last several months (years, if I'm being honest), I have clocked something particularly annoying about my jawline. Nothing to be embarrassed about, alarmed by, or really even that noticeable by others. But I could feel it: More days than not my jawline gets slightly puffy and swells. Again, this is hardly a concern enough that someone else might pay attention to it—and even if it was, puffy jawline and neck is usually not cause for concern.
I assumed, like many things in life, my less defined jawline was simply something that happens as we get older. But recently upon chatting with a holistic esthetician Hayley Wood, founder of Therapeutic Skin Coach, I realized my problem might stem from elsewhere: A puffy jawline can be a sign of "tech neck," or what we are colloquially calling our newfound cellphone- and laptop-created posture.
But first: What's tech neck again?
Tech neck is what happens when you repeatedly stare down at a screen, resulting in an hunched-forward, curved posture. This, we know, puts strain on our bodies, particularly our backs, shoulders, and neck muscles—triggering localized pain (chronic or not), headaches, and the like.
As far as the beauty space goes, "tech neck" has come to mean the fine lines that form just under your chin and neck from this posture. See, wrinkles set in faster with repeated motions and movements; so if you are regularly staring down at your phone, you're increasing the likeliness of these horizontal etches to come in.
But apparently that's not the only thing poor posture can do to the area. Wood says it also does a major number on our lymphatic drainage.
How tech neck affects lymph drainage.
"Our lymphatic system naturally circulates lymph fluids for us to have the proper amount and distribution of nutrients, hydration, and removal of waste to the whole system," Wood explains about our lymphatic drainage system. "Lymph fluids flow through lymphatic passageways called lymph vessels throughout the body, immediately under the dermal tissues, which is why it's so important to understand in order to achieve optimal skin health. Those lymph vessels are like little highway systems all over the body with pit stops to the lymph nodes if needed to store pathogens or other foreign substances."
The good news is that our bodies are pretty good at keeping things circulating when we take care of ourselves with proper movement, exercise, posture—and if not, even a lymphatic drainage massage can certainly help. However, when we aren't as diligent about tending to ourselves, things can slow down. Enter: repeated bad posture brought on by tech neck.
"Tech neck can eventually make it hard for that natural flow to occur. If you have a roadblock in your fluids moving, it's like a traffic jam, and the buildup of fluids eventually has to go somewhere. So naturally, the pooling of excess fluids will start to collect in certain areas of that highway system," she says. "This explains why a lot of people with tech neck (or just neck tension) tend to experience pooling under the chin." And guess what: This pooling results in that swelling, inflamed feeling I noted above.
What to do about it.
There are a lot of things to help your swollen jawline triggered by tech neck. Here, Wood's best advice.
Rule out anything serious.
While we said earlier that it's usually not a cause for concern, sometimes puffiness in this area can be a sign of something more serious. "First and foremost, we have to evaluate your overall health. If you have a thyroid condition or low blood pressure, we need to be careful in how we monitor the lymph pooling in certain areas," she says. You can visit your doctor to see if your glands might be a symptom of something else.
Then, of course, you can start treating the problem at the root: your hunched-over bod position. "For most other cases, proper alignment is really key to helping the lymph get back on track," she says. For more information on how you should be holding your phone, see what the experts say here; and for how to best sit at your desk, see here.
Keep track of your progress throughout the day.
Listen, good posture takes work from morning to midday to the evening. "I have personally found that a nice morning routine with alignment will support you throughout the day. Just check in with what may be feeling out of alignment or where you are holding tension when you wake up. Then do some light stretching before you get into your day. Most of us wake up with a stiff neck and then go straight into doing emails," she says. "It's important to watch this habit to help prevent poor circulation and tech neck. If you have a job where you are working a ton at the computer or a desk, I would suggest implementing some breaks to stretch. Rolling the shoulders, stretching for your toes, opening up the chest, and even just loosening the jaw can help a ton."
Use lymphatic drainage tools.
"Techniques like gentle self-massage, gua sha, and even facial rolling can promote that," she says. See our guides to rolling, lymphatic massage, and gua sha here to help you get started. Or, if you suspect you really need help, see a facialist to guide you. "Many holistic estheticians are certified and trained to do manual lymphatic drainage in order to help with the effects of tech neck on the skin. They can help you by setting you up with the proper self-care for home use," she says.
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.