We have all been scolded at one point or another for bad posture. Well, now more and more evidence is coming out linking poor posture to chronic neck and back pain. Part of the reason for our posture is due to modern society….no, that does not take the blame away from you. Spending a majority of the day in a flexed posture, such as working on the computer, sitting in a car, reading, writing, and watching television leads to alterations of the body’s normal alignment. Your muscles have to work harder in order to adjust for the change in posture and to compensate for the altered center of gravity so you literally don’t fall over. Over time, this can lead to permanent changes on the spine (such as becoming ‘round shouldered’).
One of the things we do seemingly all day, every day, is use our smart phones. An article recently published in Surgical Technology International and featured on the NBC nightly news highlights how much stress this simple task places on our neck. Reading with the neck flexed in the typical 60 degree position, whether on a smart phone or newspaper, places 60 pounds of extra force on the neck. This is equivalent to 6 x10 pound bowling balls or the weight of an average 8 year old. Obviously, the more time you spend in this position, the more stress you place on the neck. More stress will likely accelerate degeneration of the spine and cause pain. Angles less than 60 degrees still do place excessive stress on the neck, so basically any prolonged period of time spent in the flexed position results in increased strain on the neck.
So outside of never reading, writing, or using your smart phone, what should you do? The simple answer is to perform as much of this activity as possible at eye level. Adjust your computer monitor, read with the newspaper up, use a Dictaphone when possible, and read your texts/e-mails/e-books with the device elevated. When your head is in neutral, your neck should be in proper alignment (depending on your baseline posture). Another solution that I recommend is to take frequent breaks (every 20-30 minutes) from activities which cause your neck to be flexed and adjust your posture. This can be as simple as squeezing your shoulder blades together for 5-10 seconds. This simple exercise will not only help improve your posture, but will also strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder blades and upper back.
Yet more proof that your grandma knew what she was talking about…
- Nurwulan NR, Jiang BC, Iridiastadi H. Posture and Texting: Effect on Balance in Young Adults. PLoS One. 2015;10(7):e0134230. PubMed PMID: 26230323