Apple announced its new iPad air earlier this week, and rather than being excited about a lighter, faster and more reliable tech gadget, I immediately started thinking about how advanced technology is contributing to poor posture and sitting habits. Think about it: As soon as we wake up, most of us check our SmartPhones or tablets to see what new emails, tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram posts have been added to our timelines and inboxes. To make matters even worse, all of this is usually done before we even get out of the bed in the morning! With so many people constantly slouching their necks, shoulders and backs, more than just the elderly are suffering from back and neck pain.
As much as I love technology, like everything else in life, moderation is key. Over the past 12 months, I have noticed an increase in neck and back pain patients at my physical therapy clinic. As a licensed physical therapist, I find these trends troubling, especially since they can be easily avoided. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the negative health implications that sitting for long periods of time can have on the human body. Quite a few commentators agreed that sitting too much was either making them fat, sick or stiff. Sitting all day combined with SmartPhone or tablet usage is just another contributing factor that is leading to the deterioration of proper posture and muscle composition.
A new study published by Simplyhealth, a UK healthcare provider, recently received significant media attention after reporting that more than 80% of respondents claimed to have experienced back pain within the last 12 months. This news is particularly shocking because many of the respondents were young adults between 18 and 24 years of age, an age group that should be relatively healthy and pain-free.
According to the same UK study, during the past year, those same young adult respondents lost 1.5 more days of work due to back pain, which may be related to an increased use of digital devices, specifically mobile devices. Respondents who were 55 and older claimed to have spent almost seven hours per day in front of a computer screen, whereas young adult participants claimed to have spent as many as 8.83 hours per day using computers and mobile devices.
The major problem with using a tablet or SmartPhone constantly arises when the device is laid on a flat surface. This causes people to sit in positions that force the spine, back and neck into slumped, rounded positions. After facing down and being hunched over day in and day out for several months or even years, postural muscles can overstretch and weaken, which can eventually cause acute or chronic muscle pain. In addition to uncomfortable pain, poor posture can also cause stiffness, soreness and immobility.
As poor posture continues to be linked to digital device usage, many tech and health professionals are coining the syndrome as “iPosture.”
If you believe you are experiencing “iposture,” or mild to moderate back or neck pain, try incorporating these 5 stretch routines into your daily life for 20 to 30 seconds each. Make sure to complete each stretch 5 times to achieve optimal results. Check out the collage photo above for a visual reference for each stretch:
1. Armpit Neck Stretch – Look down towards your armpit and provide pressure on the top of your head until you feel a stretch alongside your neck.
2. Side Bend Neck Stretch – Drop your ear towards your shoulder and provide pressure at the head.
3. Elbow Wide Chest Stretch – Place your hands behind your head and provide pressure on the back of your elbows until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and chest.
4. Classic Chest Stretch – Reach behind your back, interlace the fingers and pull back until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and chest.
5. Corner/Door Stretch – Place your hands in the corner of a doorway and lean your body forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and chest.
There are many proactive stances that you can take now to prevent back or neck pain from ever occurring. If you don’t make simple changes while you’re healthy, later on in life you may find yourself in severe pain that may cost you serious pain, cash and time! For daily fitness and physical therapy tips and advice, make sure to follow me on Twitter & Instagram! “Like” my Official Fitness With Maria Facebook Fan Page!