We rely on our “devices” daily, but using them tends to create some new postural issues. At Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we want to alert you to the right and wrong body mechanics for using smartphones, tablets and laptops to help prevent orthopaedic pain and injury.
Techno-Posture is a “Thing” Now
A new study from a major office furniture supplier found that new technologies like smartphones, tablets and laptops are changing the way we sit. In fact, the study of 2,000 people in 11 revealed that we’ve developed nine new postures that we assume when interacting with these devices. These new positions are not only unhealthy but have the potential to cause us some real pain and discomfort.
The postures range from the combination “slouch/hunch” that people working on laptops commonly assume, to awkward attempts to use a phone and a laptop simultaneously. Among the problems these unnatural postures produce over time are neck, back, shoulder, arm and wrist pain. For example, it’s difficult to use a smartphone when it’s on a flat surface, so people hold theirs up, potentially causing shoulder strain.
Anecdotally, too, an array of techno-named conditions such as “Blackberry thumb” or “selfie elbow” are beginning to join the ranks of more traditional sports-related injuries such as tennis elbow.
Oh, My Aching Neck!
Smartphone use, in particular, is doing a number on people’s necks. Consider the fact that the average head weighs 10 to 12 pounds: not exactly a light load for the neck. We bend our necks forward about 60 degrees every time we text or scroll through numbers on our smartphones. When we do that, we effectively raise the stress on our necks to about 60 pounds, which is the roughly the same weight as a 5-gallon bucket of paint!
According to New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August, who’s been treating patients for more than three decades, the so-called “dowager’s hump” where the upper back is frozen into a permanent curve is now showing up in teenagers!
Awareness is the First Step
Knowing that our devices adversely affect our posture is the first step in finding ways to correct the problem. For starters, you can work on keeping your shoulders and head upright when looking at your phone, even if you have to hold it at eye level to use it. You can also take breaks from your computer to stretch your neck, shoulders and back.
What if Damage Has Already Occurred?
If you’re experiencing technology-associated pain and discomfort, you can consult your orthopaedist for diagnosis and a physical examination. He or she may then refer you to a physical therapist (PT).
A PT works with you to restore range of motion in your neck and shoulders and prescribe specific stretching exercises that can help reduce technology-related aches and pains. A PT can also help you to correct your seated posture and teach you how to incorporate ergonomic principles into your daily technology use. Deep-tissue massage and hot and cold therapies administered by your PT will help make you more comfortable as you learn to correct the causes of your pain.
Please contact us at Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (757) 873-1554 or schedule online for both diagnosis by one of our orthopaedic specialists and physical therapy services in Newport News, VA. Postural correction is an important investment in your long-term good health and appearance.