Devices and Posture
Love of technology can be a real pain in the neck
Anterior head carriage, or forward head posture, is a postural adaptation that afflicts many people in today’s society. The term “text neck” or “iPosture” is being blamed for an alarming level of neck and back pain in the population, especially amongst millennials.
Technology is fairly inevitable in today’s workplace. People are well-connected at all time and technology is often central to the way we live, work and play. The younger generation may not account for the impact that technology has on their health, including their musculoskeletal (MSK) system.
We are only now starting to better understand the impact of the postural strain with anterior head carriage and how it may be a risk factor for MSK conditions, including back and neck pain. The impacts of the prolonged use of technology will likely not be well understood until decades from now. However, we are starting to see the impact it is having on the MSK health of the younger generation.
Here are a few points to consider:
- The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in 2011.
- The average older adult glances at their smartphone 5 times a day, in contrast to an average of 109 times a day for a millennial.
- It is estimated that 60% of adults spend five or more hours a day in front of an electronic device, but interestingly 40% of millennials spend over nine hours in front of an electronic device.
- The use of computers, tablets, and mobile devices may result in increased hunching which can lead to text neck and back pain.
- “Text neck” was coined to refer to the prolonged use of mobile devices and resulting neck pain.
What is Anterior Head Carriage?
Anterior head carriage is a condition where the head is improperly aligned with the neck and shoulders. In a normal spine, the head should be suspended directly over the spine and in line with the shoulders. This keeps the weight of the head over the body’s center of gravity. The strain of poor posture while using technology can cause straightening of the neck’s natural curve and the head shifts forward from its neutral position, which can result in text neck.
As the shoulders curve inward, the muscles of the neck and back will begin to be strained by the unnatural pulling forces of the weight of the head tilting forward. The average person’s head weighs between 9 and 10 pounds. Properly supported with correct posture, the head should feel fairly weightless, but tilted forward; your body will feel the weight of your head which will also pull and tug your neck and back out of position. Consider the fact that for every inch your head shifts forward from your center of gravity, the weight of the head is increased by 10 lbs!
What are the Symptoms of Text Neck?
For some people, there may be no symptoms to indicate that their posture is less than perfect, however, in others, various symptoms will present as a result of anterior head carriage. These include:
- forward head posture
- rounded shoulders with a slouching posture
- pain in the neck, shoulders, upper, lower and middle back
- jaw pain
- teeth clenching
- tightness of the neck and chest muscles
- decreased neck range of motion
- numbness and tingling in the arms and hands
- difficulty with overhead arm exercises/movements
To minimize the potential impact of poor posture and anterior head carriage, millennials, and all Canadians, are urged to mindful of their use of technology and take measures to counteract the risks by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including daily exercise.
Here are a few tips to follow to manage the risk:
- Be ergonomically savvy when you use of electronic devices.
- Take designated breaks from technology (a few hours a day dedicated to other activities)
- Take the time to be physically active each day
- Be more conscious of your posture
- Visit your chiropractor on a regular basis to prevent or manage MSK conditions
Education and body awareness is important when addressing the impact of electronic devices on their MSK system. Looking ahead, millennials could be facing battles against serious MSK conditions because of society’s reliance on technology.
Perfect your Posture
Good posture makes you look better. Not only that, but it also delivers increased energy, better breathing, improved circulation, and less wear and tear on your joints. It’s an investment in both your appearance and your health.
The secret to good posture is maintaining the spine’s natural curves. If your spine is not properly aligned, your muscles and ligaments have to work harder to keep you upright and this can result in strain and pain.
When you slouch, you also put pressure on your lungs and stomach. This can affect breathing and digestion, as well as blood flow.
The Posture Test
Use a three-way mirror or have a friend help you check out these markers:
- When standing: your head, shoulders, hips, and ankles should line up, one comfortably above the other. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet should be shoulder-width apart or more.
- When looking at your back: are your shoulders and hips level, or is one side higher than the other? Does your head tilt to one side or the other? Does one shoulder blade seem to be more prominent than the other? Do the muscles of the back seem more developed on one side, compared to the other? A healthy back should be symmetrical.
Chiropractic can help!
Technological advances may have made life a little easier, but these advances are taxing our bodies. Our dependence on technology has led to increasingly sedentary lifestyles and postural problems impacting our health and wellbeing, which affect our overall quality of life.
Anterior head carriage can affect people of all ages who perform repetitive movements and activities that cause the head to tilt forward or look down – such as working on handheld devices. Millennials are the first generation where technology has played a central role in almost all aspects of life. If not corrected, these lifestyle habits and changes can lead to text neck, resulting in pain disability.
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the effects of anterior head carriage, consult a chiropractor for a thorough MSK assessment. Your chiropractor can treat the signs and symptoms of text neck, advise you on the best way to improve your posture while using electronic devices, and help prevent future MSK conditions down the road based on your current lifestyle.
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