Our continually changing technology is amazing isn’t it? The ability to be connected to everyone and have the knowledge of the universe at our finger tips is something we never dreamed of. However, as with any change in our environment there are changes that occur in our bodies to adapt to this change.
As someone who works with people to help them control and eliminate pain, technology has really added a new dimension to my work. The biggest problem created by our new fun devices is the change in posture that occurs from their continual use.
What are the changes? Most of them occur from the positions you get in to use your devices. You know you have seen it- the slumped forward, flexed posture of almost all of America. Let me list the chain of events that happen in the key areas of your body, so you can decide if you are one of these people.
- Forward head posture– This is when the head shifts forward on the spine. This causes more load to be placed on the vertebrae and can cause pinching of the spinal nerves. The average head weighs about 12 pounds. Did you know that for every inch that the head moves forward on the spine, it increases the effective weight of the head by 10 pounds? Do you have a 42 lb. head because of bad posture?
- Rounded Shoulders– This is when your shoulder blades widen as you hunch forward, allowing the muscles to become lengthened and weak. At the same time, your chest muscles become shortened and tight. This keeps you tied up in a closed, forward flexed posture.
- Flexed low back – Since everything above the low back is flexed forward over your device your low back follows right along. A flexed low back causes strain of the muscles, ligaments and discs.
- Hip muscle tightness– Sitting for prolonged periods of time causes the hip flexor muscles to become tight. Tight hip muscles affect your pelvis position, and pelvis position affects your low back.
Do you see the pattern? From top to bottom it is a cruel chain of events. Everything is connected and what happens in one area will affect the areas above and below.
So unfortunately you have become a rounded version of yourself, letting your spine curve forward, your muscles lengthen and weaken and all of your joints to take on more stress then they are capable of handling.
“But I work out each day. I lift weights, I do cardio, doesn’t that help?” My brutally honest answer to this is- No. “Form follows function”- meaning whatever position you are in the majority of your day is what your posture will become. Working out for 1 hour in the gym, a few times a week is great for your heart and muscles yes, but good postural alignment must be followed through with consistently in your daily activities and also in your workout. Does your iPad time equal your gym time? I’ll bet you that if I saw you working out in the gym, those postural bad habits would probably display themselves in your workout routine.
So what are some things you can to do help combat these postural strain symptoms?1
1. Think- A, B, C– This is a quick posture check list that you can use.
A – Abdominals. Are your abdominals pulled in and up? If you do this, chances are you will sit or stand up straighter, allowing your low back to straighten out of that flexed posture. Think of the belly button being pulled to the spine.
B- Back – The upper back specifically, pull your shoulder blades back and down. This will open up the front of the chest and make the posture muscles of your back engage to keep you from hunching.
C- Chin– The position of your head is important. Pull your chin toward the back of your body, lengthening your neck and keeping it out of that flexed position.
2. Adjust your computer/laptop– Adjust your screen so it is at eye level. Have your forearms supported, and your legs at a 90 degree angle. Adjust your chair accordingly. Have your low back supported allowing you to sit tall.
3. Lift your arm up—When using your phone, lift your arm up to see the screen rather than flexing your head down. Remember that 42 lb. head!
4. Take regular tech breaks– Every hour get up and move. Do a few postural stretches for the neck, chest, hips and low back.
5. Take a fitness class – Take a class or a private session with a professional that focuses on your postural problems and correcting them. The more aware you are of what your postural faults are the better you will be at making the right changes that are for your specific needs.
Donna Gambino, Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Pilates Instructor, and fitness author. www.infinityhealth.org