Remember mom tapping your shoulder and telling you to sit up straight? What was so interesting about our feet? Today, kids and adults are looking down at the most fascinating view in town – our phones. Some sources report that Americans are spending more than three hours every day on their phones. That’s nearly one day out of every week! While your finger scrolls the phone, your back and neck might be doing the most work.
To discuss how technology usage may be affecting our posture, we spoke with Beth Gibbons, MD, a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Banner Health in Colorado. She offered tips for how tech users can avoid permanent damage with warnings and helpful exercises.
1. Take a break
This is the most obvious solution, but for some reason it’s also the hardest. Try setting a timer on your phone to alert you when you’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling. Setting these alerts is easy with voice activated helpers. Simply tell Siri, Alexa or Google to set the timer whenever you pick up your phone to scroll.
2. Work at a desk
If you exclusively check your email on your phone, stop. Desktop devices that put the screen at eye-level are much easier on your back and neck. You’ll find yourself looking up at the screen rather than down at your phone.
3. Use hands-free devices
Another great way to look up is to use hand-free devices during phone calls. Throw in your headphones, slide your phone into your pocket and go for a walk while you talk. Your back will thank you.
Hunching is typically a symptom of weakness. “Make sure that you are mixing strength training exercises into your daily routine,” said Dr Gibbons. “Strong muscles and joints will help you support good posture, comfortably.” Yoga is a fun, relaxing way to increase mobility and strength in your neck and back. Try “cat-cow” and “downward facing dog” poses to lengthen your spine and align your spine after extended periods of screen use.
Feeling tightness on the back of your neck? Try rolling your head in circles over your shoulders or moving your head back and forth in exaggerated nodding motions. Mobility in all directions is an important part of protecting yourself from spine damage.
It may sound silly to need professional help to correct your “text neck,” but there is no shame in getting support or guidance. Dr. Gibbons advised that you may benefit from physical therapy if your back pain has extended to arm or leg pain, if you are experiencing numbness or if you are struggling to control your symptoms with the tips above. She added that most back pain can be corrected without surgery, but that doesn’t mean that you should do it alone. Schedule a visit with your doctor to get help before soreness becomes pain. To find a Banner Health specialist, visit bannerhealth.com.