How’s Your Posture?

Are you rounded over like Bob Cratchit slaving away at your desk each day?

There’s also a generation of young adults ages 18 to 24 who are spending a good chunk of time each day hunched over a smartphone, tablet or another digital device.

At some point in their lives, 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain. And the number of young adults already experiencing back pain is rising.

You might hear the slang term “iPosture” used to describe the poor posture and rounded backs of digital device users.

What’s the cause? Some young adults are spending as much time on their devices as they do sleeping. It is not uncommon for American teens to use digital media for an average of nine hours a day.

And it’s not just younger people experiencing pain — 46 percent of adults of all ages who use multiple devices at the same time report that they have neck and shoulder pain.

Another term for this type of neck pain is “text neck.” It has become common with the increased use of smartphones. And it’s no wonder those necks are aching.

The average human head weighs around 10 pounds. When the head is tilted forward like it does when looking at a device for long periods of time, it puts extra pressure on the spine, causing pain in the neck, head and shoulders.

Research suggests that when you tilt your head forward 60 degrees to look at your phone, you are putting 60 pounds of pressure on your neck.

So what can you do to decrease your chances of developing lower back and neck pain?

In Your Workspace

Sitting for hours at a time puts pressure on the spine, and the repetitive motions you use while using a computer can injure the soft tissues of your forearms, wrists and hands.

Start with making changes at your workstation at home and at the office:

  • Position the computer monitor directly in front of you so you don’t have to twist your neck to see it. Move the monitor about an arm’s distance away from your body.
  • Adjust your chair’s height so that your feet rest flat on the floor. If they don’t reach, use a footrest. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor, and your knees should be in line with your hips.
  • Tilt the top of the monitor away from you about 10 to 20 degrees.
  • When seated, make sure your low back and shoulders are touching the chair’s backrest. Use a lumbar pad to support your low back.
  • Adjust the height of your keyboard so that your forearms make a 90-degree angle with your elbows.

On the Couch

Notice how you are sitting. Are you slumping? When you’re using your digital devices or watching TV, keep a neutral posture, with the screen at eye level whenever possible. Get up, stretch and take a walk every 30 minutes or so.

When Standing

Be aware of your standing posture, too. Keep your head erect, chin parallel to the floor, chest up and stomach flat.

Work It Out

Back pain is a common reason for decreased activity levels in young adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, yoga and lifting light weights will create forces on the bone that trigger increased bone density.

Stretching regularly and getting aerobic exercise three to five times per week can also help improve your overall fitness and lower your chances of back injury.

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