Have you walked past a mirror, caught a glimpse of yourself, and wondered ‘When did I become the Hunchback of Notre Dame??!’ With online meetings for school/work, long drives, sitting on the couch watching tv, and the constant use of mobile technology, our posture is suffering. Technology is wonderful, but it can ruin our posture. One such adaptation is ‘tech neck’ which describes the pain in your neck from looking down at your computer, phone, or tablet. This causes people to experience low back pain and neck pain, along with rounding of the upper back and over-tightening of both the pectoral muscles (chest muscles) and the hip flexors.
More about tech neck.... The average human head weighs about 11 lbs....anyone thinking of the movie Jerry Maguire right now? As you tilt your head forward by looking down at your phone or computer screen, you change the angle at which your head is sitting on your neck. As that angle increase, so does the weight of your head. The more you look down, the more the muscles must work to keep your head upright, putting unwanted stress on your cervical spine which leads to pain and poor posture.
What can you do to help prevent Tech neck? It is as easy as remembering what your mom told you when you were younger...Sit up straight! When you are seated make sure you are seated all the way back in your chair. This causes most of the pressure on your bottom to spread through the upper hamstrings and the glutes, not your tail bone. You want to have your feet planted flat on the ground and your computer screen at eye level as this will help to keep your head in a neutral position.
Check your chair! A lot of chairs that we use daily lack lumbar support. You can either purchase a lumbar support pad or use a rolled up a towel or pillow to put between your low back and the back of the chair. This set up will help create a more neutral spine, helping your head to stay on top of your neck instead of tilting slightly forward. Lumbar support helps in taking pressure off your low back and alleviates pain.
Stretch! Typing and looking down at your phone or computer causes your pectoral (chest) muscles to shorten and round your shoulders forward. This will push your neck forward which leads neck pain and tightness. What can you do to help with this? At least once a day you can go through a short 5-minute stretching routine that will help relax your chest and neck. This can be done before, during or after your working sessions.
Just Stand Up! Now this last piece of advice is especially important. Make sure you stand up and walk around every hour or so. It is great for your health, both physically and mentally. Standing up will prevent extensive tightening of the muscular system and help you to stay loose from sitting for hours upon hours. If taking a break is not an option, consider getting a standing desk. Standing desks allow for seamless transitions from sitting to standing without having to stop your work. You can also move around while standing at your desk, you can roll the bottom of your feet on a lacrosse ball, balance on a balance board, get a stationary bike and set that up under your desk. The options are limitless.... just make sure that your computer screen is at eye level.
Now let’s take those 5 minutes and stretch along to the video!
Tony Sommers, B.S. is a graduate in Kinesiology: Fitness for California State University, Long Beach. He is currently working on his Master's degree in Kinesiology.