As smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become a central part of most Americans’ lives, we have all felt the effects – literally. The constant use of electronic devices has begun to take a physical toll on our bodies, as most of us who spend hours looking at screens all day can attest. We know what it feels like to sit in front of a computer all day or stand staring at our phone screen, only to pay the consequences with aching backs and necks. So what is it that our devices are doing to us exactly?
Posture and Pain
Studies have shown that prolonged device use is directly tied to poor posture, including forward neck and head, slouching, and rounded shoulders. While this varies between individuals, the effects are generally dependent on how often and for how long we are using our devices, the degree of neck flexion while using them, and the position of our bodies during use.
Sustained poor posture in these ways can lead to injury, pain, and dysfunction of the back. For example, standing or sitting in the forward neck position can lead to injury of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spinal structure, and may increase one’s risk of accelerated degenerative spinal changes in the long-term. Also, spending increasing time with the head bent down and forwards increases the force on the cervical spine, which can increase the pain experienced by the user. If the neck remains in this position, some muscles begin to stretch while others contract, causing an imbalance that can cause further pain and dysfunction.
What are some ways to avoid these effects on our posture? It depends on the device you are using:
- If you are using a computer, you should make sure the top portion of the screen is at eye level and keep your forearms parallel to the floor when your hands are on the keyboard with your feet flat on the floor.
- If you are using a smartphone, you should keep your phone at eye level, resting your elbows on a surface whenever possible, and opt for using voice-to-text software instead of typing.
Regardless of what you are using or doing, it is important to be mindful of your posture and slouching throughout the day and remember to take breaks often. Your back will thank you.
Written by guest Laura LaMastra with contributions from www.cprtherapy.org.