In today’s world, many of us are almost constantly connected. We’re practically glued to our smartphones and tablets, all the more so with COVID-19 driving us to work or attend school from home. On top of that, we’re updating and following our friends and family on Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Do we even realize what that’s doing to our bodies? How many of you actively think about how to keep your spine healthy when you’re spending so much time on your devices? The fact is, approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, and a lot of that is due to how much we fail to maintain our spinal health.
Avoid Text Neck to Keep Your Spine Healthy
When you spend as much time on a smartphone or tablet as most of us do, it’s easy to fall prey to something called Text Neck or Tech Neck. The reason is, you’re hunched over your digital device, whether it’s your smartphone or your tablet. The younger generations are definitely more prone to this, but more and more adults are beginning to suffer from the ailment, too.
Normally, when your neck is aligned the way it should be, the spine forms itself into a smooth, soft “S” shape. Someone who leans forward too often will develop poor posture and a hunched-over appearance. Leaning behind for too long leads to a scrunched appearance.
Too much strain on your spine can cause muscular weakness, radiating pains, and even headaches. Later on, you could experience spinal degeneration, compression of the cervical discs, muscle weakness, arthritis, or loss of lung capacity. To help avoid this and keep your spine healthy, follow these tips.
1. Practice Good Body Posture
The first step to keep your spine healthy is something you should do whether you’re using one of your electronic devices or not. Maintain proper body posture, whether you’re sitting or standing. Your neck should remain in line with your body, your back straight but not too stiff. Poor body posture is one of the leading causes not only of text/tech neck but many other spinal health issues.
One tip to help you keep your posture healthy, according to Dr. David Roberts of the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, is to make sure your devices are positioned at eye level as much as possible. This way, you can keep from straining your neck or spine leaning over to use your device.
For heavier handheld devices, such as tablets and even larger smartphones, changing which hand is actually supporting the device can be important. Even better, use your table, a mobile support holder, or something similar to take the weight off your body during extended use.
2. Keep Track of How Much Time You Spend Hunched Over
Health tracking apps or devices can help monitor how much time you spend in the same position or stooped over. Typically, these trackers will provide you reminders every so often to change your position, get up and walk around, or do various neck and spine exercises to avoid problems.
One such exercise, the chin tuck, is one you can even do at your desk while sitting in traffic, or at a meeting. It strengthens your neck muscles to help pull your head back into alignment with your spine and increases your spinal awareness.
To do a chin tuck, sit up tall in your seat with your chin parallel to the floor. Without tilting your head, in any direction, drawback your head and chin. Imagine that you’re trying to make a double chin. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
Next, imagine you have a string pulling your head upwards, like a puppet, and push the base of your skull away from the base of your neck. You’ll be elongating your neck. Keep your jaw relaxed and hold that position for three deep breaths. Then, release your chin forward and repeat the process 2-3 times.
3. Create an Ergonomically Friendly Workspace
In keeping with maintaining good back posture as much as possible, you should keep your workspace comfortable and ergonomic. There are plenty of options to help with this, such as chairs that support your back to keep your spine healthy, standing desks that promote proper posture while working, and stands to adjust the height of your table or laptop screen to keep you from having to bend over to use them.
Keyboards and mice should also be kept at comfortable heights to prevent repetitive motion injuries. While these may not directly help keep your spine healthy, it’s still important for your overall well-being.
Keep Your Spine Healthy and Be More Productive
As much as it might seem contrary to say taking time out of your workday for spinal health will make you more productive, it’s actually true. Continuing to abuse your back will lead to pain and discomfort that slows you down and reduces your productivity. On the other hand, taking the necessary precautions to maintain a healthy back and spine will allow you to be happier, more comfortable, and yes, more productive.