Our ever-increasing screen time is messing up our bodies in surprising ways. Here's how to unwind the damage.
If you’re reading this on your phone or computer right now, take a quick posture check: Are you hunched over? Are your shoulders raised up or held back? Is your neck jutted out or bent down? Chances are, you're guilty of at least one, if not all, of those compromising positions.
When you constantly look down at a screen (we all do it), it promotes a hunched mid-back and a reverse curve in our neck region — a.k.a. tech neck. Over time, these overworked, over-stretched muscles can get stuck in that position, leading to poor posture and potential injuries. It may also cause literal pain in the neck, back, arms and hands.
And the damage isn’t just limited to the muscles. Take breathing, for example: When your head is looking down at your phone or tablet, the trachea (the tube in your throat that allows air to enter in and out of your body) becomes constrained. If the trachea is constrained, less air gets into the lungs. In turn, less oxygen enters your bloodstream, which in return can leave you feeling tired and weary.
1 Stand up during the day
Invest in a transitional sit-to-stand desk at work, if possible. With the touch of a button — or a few turns of a handle — these raise up your computer, allowing you to work sitting or standing which helps with circulation and posture. It can also prevent aches and pain in the lower back and neck.
2 Hold your phone up
Elevate your phone to eye-height when texting (or scrolling!). This will help keep your head in a more neutral position and reduce the pressure on your spine and neck.
3 Take tech breaks
When you're walking, eating or spending time with loved ones, try not to look down at your phone — put it on airplane mode if you have to. Doing this allows you to look straight ahead, keeping your posture upright. During the work day, aim to take a short break every hour to help realign your spine and give your neck and upper back muscles a rest.
4 Stretch at your desk
Take a moment to do this stretch to open your chest and rotate your shoulders back.
Sit upright at the edge of your chair, looking straight ahead. Lift your shoulders up towards your ears and then roll them back, trying to get your shoulder blades to come together and to draw down towards your seat. This will help “massage” the area that gets tight in the mid-back and exercise the weaker muscles at the same time.
5 Try the T-stretch
Grab a long foam roller for a self-massaging T-stretch, which can do wonders for stiff shoulders.
Lie longways on a foam roller (from head to tail), making sure your head is supported. Bend your knees, keeping them shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms out in a T-position, palms up, with arms at shoulder height or slightly lower. Just allow gravity do its thing, letting your shoulders sink down along the sides of the roller. Take 10 deep breaths.
This stretch will open the chest and front of the neck, allowing the mid-back and neck muscles to relax.
Too attached to your phone? These four simple tips can help you decrease your reliance on your device and lighten the load that technology places on your body.