Too much screen time? Your body is bearing the brunt
The neck of the human body holds our head in an upright position. As technology has progressed, we have forced ourselves to use our necks the way our devices and gadgets have expected us to. Whether it’s the sedentary lifestyles of the office – goers or the millennial that spend excessive amounts of time on their phones, neck pain is a common problem seen across generations. Here’s how using devices adversely affects our body.
1) Forward Head Posture – The way we hold our phones and drop our heads to look at them or push our necks forward while we stare at our computer screens, causes increased tension in the muscles and joints around the neck. The longer we keep the head hanging, the greater the load on the neck.
This causes alteration in the length and tension around the muscles of the neck. It also causes alterations in the joints, where the upper part is forced to straighten out while the lower parts of the neck is bent forwards. The changes in the joints may further lead to bony grinding which may lead to arthritic changes.
2) Cervical Hump – The forward head posture causes dissociation between the neck and the rest of the spine. The cervical hump is the bony prominence between the neck and the upper back and is a result of an exaggerated forward head posture. It is most commonly seen due to the maintenance of poor postures and can be corrected by strengthening of your deep cervical flexors, the muscles at the front of the neck.
3) Rounded Upper Back – This is called a kyphotic spine. The weakening of the muscles around the upper back is what causes this posture. The rounded upper back causes the shoulders to tilt forwards. A rounded upper back may also cause stiffness in the joints and tightness in the muscles of the chest. Strengthening of your shoulder blades will help correct this posture.
1) Change Your Workstation – It is important to maintain good ergonomics while working. Readjust the height of your computer screen to bring it at eye level. Make sure you chair supports the entire spine. The distance between our chair and screen should be adjusted to keep your arms supported at all times, without shrugging your shoulders. Make sure your feet are planted on the floor while your thighs are parallel to the ground.
2) Always hold your phones at eye-level. Do not let your head hang. If your arms get tired from holding the phone for a sustained period of time, support the arms or elbows to take load off the arms and neck.
3) Strengthen the muscles at the front of the neck and the muscles of the upper back to correct these faulty postures.
4) Work on the stiffness. A great exercise to open up a rounded back is to lie on a thick towel roll or foam roller for a couple of minutes which works on the stiffness in the joints of the upper back. Practice some upper back mobility exercises to maintain the range of motion.
The author is a musclo – skeletal physiotherapist, with over five years of professional experience. She is also a certified mat pilates instructor and uses a variety of adjuncts such as dry needling, kinesio – taping and manual therapy as part of her treatment therapies.