Packing our “car bag” for the beach I load up on snacks, books, games, and SEVEN technological devices. You heard me right, we have iphones, ipad, ipods, laptops, and CD players.
We don’t have much space in our schedule for “screen time” most weeks and I like it that way. When it comes to hours in the car though, my sanity (and ability to work from the road or hotel room) depeneds on these devices.
As a physical therapist, do you know what I worry about most when it comes to my kids and screen time?
The way they sit hunched over with their necks crooked, knees up to support the device, elbow bent, thumbs tapping, and generally a stiff awkward position.
It’s not just the kids! All of us use portable, wireless technology. In fact, the average American adults sends 40 e-mails from a device daily. Unfortunately, as we scroll and tap away we are often oblivious to the position that puts us in.
The result can be headaches, eye strain, neck pain, shoulder and upper back stiffness, and even low back problems. The good news is – when we know better, we can do better, so we have for you 5 Postures to Avoid when using technological devices.
Perhaps the most talked about, this is the position we sit in when looking at our smart phones. The mayo Clinic states this “forward head postures leads to long term muscle strain, disc herniations, arthritis, and pinched nerves”.
In fact, with your head bent forward at this angle, it adds 60 lbs of extra weight on your spine (equivalent to carrying around and average 8 year old). This extra stress results in chronic headaches, neck pain, and upper back soreness.
Laptops are designed for convenience, not ergonomics. With the keyboard attached to the screen, it is nearly impossible to find a comfortable position to work. We have to hold it way too far out in front of us in order to properly see the screen with arms extended or we are slumped over top of it.
The result. . . a rounded spine that becomes stiff and painful. Many complain of both upper and lower back pains, as well as this being the root cause of many shoulder problems.
Tablet Thigh Rest
Where else are you going to put your tablet when on the go, but resting on your thighs? But to see the device on your thighs, you must look down. Not just on the go, I find myself doing this even sitting in my bed.
Sitting like this puts our necks and spine in a strained position. The worse part is the long long hours we remain this way. Over time, this position has been found to result in early onset of arthritis in both the neck and back.
Sitting with our smart phones, e-readers, and gaming devices we generally keep our elbows bent. It’s not that bent elbows is inherently a bad posture, but the length of time we remain this way is.
We keep our wrists stiff, fingers scrunched, and thumbs tapping. This can result in tendinitis – inflammation of the cords that attach bone to muscle. Pain can occur in your shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands. Without treatment or performing proper movement the muscle can become fibrotic and scarred leading to loss of movement, less strength, and pain.
When talking on the phone or using devices that aren’t directly in front of us, we cock our head to the side. This is can also occur when sharing a device to watch a show or movie be it at home or on a plan. Obvious neck pain and stiffness can ensue. However, this can also effect your shoulder and upper back due to tight and spasmed muscles.
The phone is perhaps the easiest to correct. . . use a head set! The biggest problem with all these postures, is the frequent, repetitive, and lengthy time that we remain in the position. Our muscles, joints, and spine feel the impact of unnecessary strain, overwork, and poor posture for extended periods of time.
The use of these technologies is inevitable in our day to day lives, so what can we do to prevent these problems?
Hold your smart phone at eye level
Sit with your ears over your shoulders
Use devices on a stable base
Use a separate keyboard so you can reach it comfortably
Keep your back straight
Hinge at your hips when you must lean forward
Sit slightly reclined to decrease neck strain
Retract (pull back) your shoulders
And the #1 tip. . . . Move and stretch.
Just change positions as frequently as possible. Our bodies are designed to be active. Our joints and muscle need regular movement for optimal health.
If you do have any aches or pains from being slumped over a device, we invite you to schedule a FREE In Person or Virtual Posture Assessment with a Doctor of Physical Therapy. This Discovery Visit allows you to find out exactly what is causing your pain and what the next best step is for resolving the problem. Click the link below.