It used to be that our parents and teachers told us not to slouch. It’s rude and suggests laziness, but ultimately too much slouching is bad for our back and neck. In a workplace where prolonged sitting down is a feature of the work, businesses are obliged to provide the right kinds of chair to support the user’s posture. Now, it seems there is a new threat to our back health – using a smartphone.
What is Posture and Why is Good Posture Necessary?
Simply, posture is the alignment of our body while standing or seated. We hear about posture all the time, but it’s more than about simply how we sit or the image we present to others – it’s a health issue too. We need to hold our bodies in ways that are good for our neck and spine. Long working hours, too much time sitting in the wrong type of chair, poor positioning in bed or not getting a new mattress when the old one is past its best – these are just some of the issues affecting our posture.
Medical professionals cannot emphasise enough the importance of a good posture, but we aren’t listening and it’s hurting our health. A bad posture can have knock-on effects for other issues and can lead to lost working time, restricted mobility and in some cases, permanent disability.
Enter the Smartphone
The speed of uptake of smartphones and tablets has been phenomenal. Suddenly, thanks to touchscreen technology, anybody can interact with electronic devices. The ease of web access means that computing is no longer daunting for even the most tech-averse. But smartphones and tablets are damaging our posture.
Recent research in the US has highlighted a problem called “tech neck” or “iPad neck” (although this is not an issue caused solely by iPads) that could potentially lead to permanent damage. Most of us lean over to read our tablets and smartphones and this puts considerable pressure on the neck. The human head weighs 10-12Ib (4.5-5.5kg). When we lean forward to look at a device, that weight balances forward of the neck which can struggle to support it. For every increased degree of angle, the weight and pressure on the neck increases. Doing this repeatedly increases the wear and tear on the structures in the neck and at the top of the spine. In some cases, sufferers will need to go through an operation to correct it.
How to Combat “Tech Neck”
Take Regular Breaks
Technology sucks us in and we end up wasting a lot of time on them. The “15 minutes for every hour” recommendation used in the workplace for physical well being is a good rule of thumb. Don’t go more than an hour using your smartphone or tablet and make sure you take regular breaks to do other activities.
One of the best ways to prevent stress and strain on your neck and upper back is to change your position when using your tablet or smartphone for any length of time so that you don’t simply lean your head forward. Lie down in bed and hold your phone up. That way, your neck has support from below and you’ll be looking forward. Sit on your side too, but ensure good posture and comfort. The aim is to alternate the body’s position.
Use Complementary Technologies
Smartphones come with built-in technology such as voice recognition and voice to text. You can also buy accessories such as Bluetooth headsets to reduce the direct interaction with the device. These tools and software allow you to reduce the amount of time you spend staring at the phone. If you have poor posture and use technology a lot, you could benefit from their use.