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Becky Lees, Physiotherapist - How to Improve your posture to alleviate and prevent back pain and ‘tech neck’

January 12, 2017 / Field in: Dan

For many of us, our lives are surrounded by and reliant on technology, whether it’s computers, laptops, tablets or mobile phones.

You probably use technology more than you think and even if you don’t work at desk, you’re likely to be sitting down and logging into Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis, shopping online, reading the newspaper, texting your friends, checking your emails or watching Netflix.

It means we’re sitting down more than we think and that’s not good for a variety of reasons.  A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity and diabetes and because devices require your head to flex forward, most people will be prone to slouching or hunching, putting strain on the neck and back.  When we do this our bad posture can lead to back pain and what we call ‘tech-neck’.

As always, prevention is better than cure and there are things you can do, very easily, to ensure correct spinal alignment and good posture.

Here are some tips and advice on how to do so by making simple changes to your everyday life.

Sit tall:  Arrange your work station so you’re sitting up straight with your screen at eye level.  Doctors and physiotherapists are now seeing more and more people who come to them with neck and upper back pain due to poor workstation design, which forces people to look down with their shoulders hunched up over a keyboard.

Good posture and better workstation ergonomics will help alleviate this pain and prevent further occurrence of tech-neck.  Sit in your chair properly with your lower back supported as much as possible by a back rest and even a lumbar support pad or a rolled up towel.  The screen should be positioned one arm’s length away from you and aligned with your body so you’re facing it straight, with the top of the screen at eye level.

Stand while you work:  Better still, stand at your desk while you’re working, even if it’s just for an hour a day.  A sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental and aside from improving posture and alleviating back pain, standing for at least an hour a day can bring other benefits such as better mental health.  Use the bac< Posture Stand or the standing desk if you want to stand at your workstation - it can also be used sitting on a sofa, bed or desk to promote spinal alignment and good posture.

Stand on two feet:  When you do stand, always stand on both feet to ensure even weight distribution.  So many of us are tempted to lean and put our weight onto one leg, but this will negate all the benefits of standing at the workstation as it can cause lower back pain.

Tuck your tail under:  When you’re standing, keep your weight in the back half of your foot and don’t let your back overarch; tuck your tail under and engage your low abdominal muscles to help strengthen your core and your back.

Make the device come to you:  Instead of leaning your head forward to look at your phone or tablet, bring the device to your face.  It may not feel natural at first, but you can learn this good habit over time and your strained and tense neck and shoulders will thank you for it!

Do the twist:  Sitting in the same position for hours on end can cause back pain and tech-neck so if must do so, make sure you move your neck from side to side and rotate your head and shoulders to loosen tense muscles and improve circulation.

Avoid doing large amounts of work on tablets:  It may be tempting to take your tablet in front of the TV if you’ve got lots of work to get through, but you’d be doing your back and neck a huge favor by sitting at an ergonomically correct desktop computer or docked laptop.

In general, most back and neck pain can be alleviated by applying heat, moving around and stretching followed by periods of rest, and support with the correct brace or belt.  It will usually get better of its own accord but please do see a healthcare professional if the symptoms persist.

The sensible thing to do when using devices is to take regular breaks or better still, shut them down for a while and get out and about – it’s sure to positively affect both your physical and mental well-being.