I talk a lot about how our hyperconnected world can affect mental health—and therefore how intentionally disconnecting on the reg is important for managing tech-induced stress.
But what about how your tech habits may be impacting your physical body?
Recently, more experts have been talking about how living with smartphones, laptops, and a million other devices is affecting how we sit, stand, and move.
And it’s probably not a huge surprise that “shoulders and back hunched over with neck bent towards a screen” is not the ideal position for your spine. In fact, depending on your habits and self-care practices (or lack thereof), it could lead to issues like headaches, back pain, and injuries during exercise.
Here’s a guide to some of the most common tech-induced body woes and how to avoid them via adjusting your position, incorporating stretches, and more.
The Issue: Text Neck
Not to be alarmist, but this research is a little scary: When you’re standing up straight, the force on your spine is about 10-12 pounds. As you tilt your head and neck forward (you know, to get a closer look at that caramel brownie on Instagram), it increases… a lot. At 15 degrees, the force goes up to 27 pounds; at 60 degrees (the most common angle for texting) it can hit 60 pounds. Of pressure. On your neck. If you’re in that position for hours every day, the numbers start to get intense. Your spine has a lot of work to do to support your fine self over the course of your life, so you really don’t want to make its job any harder.
Experts say the best way to prevent text neck is to try to keep your head up with a neutral spine when looking at your phone; just move your gaze downward (and/or lift your phone up higher in your hand). At your desk, make sure your computer is at eye-level and you’re not bending your neck to look down at the screen.
To release tension in your neck, try simple stretches like moving your head from right to left or tucking your chin to your chest a few times a day.
The Issue: Bad Posture
Your head isn’t the only thing moving forward as you power through hundreds of emails. Sitting in front of a computer and using a smartphone both encourage a slouched position, with your shoulders hunched forward and your chest collapsed. Not only can bad posture lead to back pain and other body ailments, research shows it can also negatively affect your mood and self-esteem.
The best plan is to work on stretching your chest and opening up your shoulders while also strengthening your upper back muscles.Work some of these stretches and exercises into your gym routine or try a few simple stretches you can do at your desk. Bonus: developing good posture will also help you keep your head up straight, reducing text neck. Whether we’re talking about tech or your body… it’s all connected.
The Issue: Wrist Pain
While there’s actually little research showing that computer and smartphone use leads to the oft-mentioned carpal tunnel syndrome, it can lead to other kinds of wrist pain (sometimes called “text claw”). Experts say any fine motor activity (i.e tapping through Snapchat stories) can stress tendons or muscles in your hands, leading to cramping and pain in your fingers, wrist, and forearm. It can also lead to tendinitis, inflammation in tendons caused by repetitive motions.
This one comes with good news, since wrist stretches are super simple and easy to work into your workday.
Stretch one hand out in front of you and with the palm facing away, use your other hand to pull back your fingers towards your body. Do it with your fingers pointing down and with them pointing up, as shown here. Yoga’s got some great wrist stretches, too: Try reverse prayer pose (which also stretches out your chest!) and wrapping your arms a la eagle pose.
Oh, and the most important advice in all of this goes back to my very first point about disconnecting. Us tech lovers just have. to. take. breaks. Our ability to enjoy and optimize our techy lifestyles depends on it.
Do you do tech-related stretches? Share your favorites, in the comments, below!