It would seem that technology may be getting the best of us. Years ago businesses and offices at home became filled with modern day computers; creating long hours of staring at monitors and screens that too often were positioned with poor ergonomics. Carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain and headaches became common side effects making their way into doctors’ offices and physical therapy clinics.
Fast forward to recent times and we now have iPads and smart phones with the world at our fingertips. Take a look at the posture of most people using these devices and you will see the origin of many aches and pains in the neck, shoulder girdles, and upper backs. The typical posture is severely slouched with a forward or protruded head.
It has been well researched that posture and body mechanics play a huge role in spinal health and muscular tension. Millions of dollars have been spent by businesses across the country to improve workplace ergonomics, yet now the public has been armed with these mobile devices that draw our attention at essentially any place and time. Just the other day at a restaurant, I looked over at a family of six also waiting for a table. Every one of them was nose down on their smartphones in the classic poor posture. For all I know they may have been texting each other.
Poor posture while using these devices is often sustained for prolonged periods and repeated throughout the day. The effect is altered joint mechanics on the spine and adverse tension on the postural muscles from the neck down. Recently, I had two former patients contact me after suffering a recurrence of neck pain that we had previously treated effectively in physical therapy. Both had no idea why their pain had returned, until I asked the question: “Have you recently started using an iPad?” The answer was yes, from both of them.
Having perfect posture is not required every moment of the day, however when the same bad posture is habituated there will be negative effects. Looking at the postures of many young children and teenagers I can’t help but wonder what they will look like, and feel like, when they are in their 40’s.
Creating good posture habits is nothing more than having better awareness of your body position throughout the day. When you catch yourself in the full-on slouch, straighten up a bit to a taller posture and position your head more in line with the shoulders. If you’re using a hand-held device it’s ok to look down, but keep a “birds-eye view” from above and avoid letting the upper back completely slouch and the head hang completely down. Your body will thank you for it.
This post was written by Brad Ott, MSPT, owner, cert MDT