IS TECHNOLOGY HARMING OUR HEALTH?
We are currently living in the age of technology; from the rise of the smartphone, to the introduction of tablets and computers into every workspace, technology is the 2nd Industrial Revolution. As a result, we as physios have seen an exponential rise in posture related pain throughout this ‘revolution’. Whether you’re sitting hunched over a laptop for work, sat on the sofa playing with your phone, or playing on your gaming device, do any of us ever stop to think about what effect the positions we adopt are having on our anatomy? This technological advancement that has enthralled millennials is creating problems that our ancestors and fellow mammals alike have never suffered with as technology has forced us to adopt un-natural and damaging positions, which put stress on parts of our body most of us never knew existed!
When we tilt our head forward because we’re bent over a phone or tablet, the angle of our head puts additional strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in our neck. We also have a tendency to round our shoulders forward, which creates additional wear on the back and the upper part of the spine.
When any of us spend an extended amount of time in these positions, we can start to experience discomfort. Throughout our 22 years, we at Bradley Physio have seen an increase in patients, adults and children alike, coming in for back and neck related pain, and this increase seems to correlate with the ‘technological revolution’ . What’s more, poor posture tends to breed more poor posture. In other words, slouching or hunching over a desk or device for a prolonged period tells your brain that this is the correct posture, so whenever we relax, whether this be at work, in the car or at the dinner table, we automatically assume this hunched posture. Poor posture can quickly become a habit.
A study published in the Journal of Surgical Technology International discovered that looking down at a phone or tablet is equivalent to putting a 60-pound weight on your neck, which equals four bowling balls, six plastic grocery bags full of food, or an 8-year-old child!
Our fear is that children will be the most heavily affected, as these changes to posture have affected millennials their entire lives; many children practically came out of the womb holding a smartphone or tablet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as they are fueling advancements in engineering, healthcare and science to name a few. However, it is currently unknown what effect this will have on their anatomy as they age; the likelihood is it will be debilitating. We are already seeing considerably more children with postural related pain coming into our clinics.
Pain is not the only issue this epidemic creates, poor posture can also cause the spinal cord to change shape, which can create chronic (long term) pain and affect balance. These are the effects that will last long into adulthood if not for a lifetime. This also has an effect on the rest of the body; sitting for extended periods of time with poor posture compresses the digestive organs, which has a negative effect on the digestive system. There are also associations with varicose veins and an elevated risk of heart disease.
The question is , how can we reeducate an entire generation in an attempt to halt this epidemic?
HOW DO WE FIX THIS?
So, I’m not suggesting we abandon technology altogether because without it we would be a simpler generation; isolated without the ability to communicate, standards of healthcare and research will plummet and food production will halve, which at a time as uncertain as today would be catastrophic. However, I am suggesting that we become conscious of this new burden technology has bestowed upon us; sit up a little straighter when watching your tablet, support your arm so that you can hold your phone level with your eyes, take regular breaks from your gaming or desk by going for a walk, stretching, and socialising! By being more conscious we can reduce the strain on ourselves and improve our own quality of life now and in the future.
😀Whilst sitting at a desk try to emulate the posture shown above; forearms should be well supported, feet touching the floor, back straight with relaxed shoulders and your neck should be in neutral looking at your computer screen (ie. your chin shouldn’t be tucked in or stuck out)
If sitting for prolonged periods try to get up every hour for a few minutes to stretch
- 😀Neck and upper back stretches can be used whilst sitting to ease tension: Eg. chin tucks, neck lengthening (imagine someone is pulling your head up to the ceiling by a thread), neck rotations (rotate to look over each shoulder), chest rotations (cross your arms over your chest and rotate your shoulders round the the right then the left)
- 😀When using a mobile device, avoid slouching over and instead use your arm muscles to hold it in front of your face.
- 😀Hold your phone at ear level and when talking on the phone. Avoid balancing your phone between your shoulder and your ear at all costs.
- 😀A good tip I was taught at school was to keep your ears in-line with your shoulders to maintain good neck posture!
- 😀Another trick is to imagine you are trying to slide your shoulder blades down into your back pockets – this should encourage you to pull your shoulders back and down creating posture worthy of the queens audience.
Over time these little changes become habit and soon you’ll have improved your posture without even having to think about it!
By doing these things little and often your will be unlocking a whole world of benefits for your body:
- Helps prevent back and neck aches and pains 👍🏼
- Decreases wear and tear on your joints 👍🏼
- You will use less energy for daily tasks helping reduce fatigue 👍🏼
- Increase your spine’s durability 👍🏼
- Encourages feelings of wellbeing 👍🏼
If you have any pains that increase or stay consistently uncomfortable, contact us to discuss possible treatment options.