Age Related Posture Changes, Computers, Cell Phones and Neck Pain

Computer and cell phone use can lead to neck pain

Neck pain happens to many of us and there could be several different reasons for it. A major contributor to neck pain, especially these days, is our computer and cell phone posture. We are all spending increased amounts of time on these devices and the postures that they promote are, quite frankly, terrible!

The posture that most people tend to assume when they are using these devices is like posture changes that are related to aging. These postures tend to bring people into positions where their head is more forward and their back is more flexed or curved.

See the similarities in the head position and back of the pictures below?

Age related or computer related neck pain?

When a person assumes a posture with their head forwards, it creates a much higher load on the muscles of the neck to support the head and overstretches the muscles in their upper back.

Under normal conditions, when your head is aligned correctly, your neck muscles must support about 10-12 pounds. When your body assumes positions with your head forwards such as looking at a computer, your phone, or the floor, the load placed on the muscles is as much as 60 pounds due to the change in angles.

When these muscles must work harder to support you, they get very cranky and cause neck pain. There are several strategies that physical therapists use to get at the root of the problem and reduce your neck pain.

Improve office ergonomics

Improve your office ergonomics-simply raising your computer screen can go a long way to get your head in a better position. (You may need to add a separate keyboard to keep your arms in a good position as well.)

Raise your cell phone

Improve your cell phone ergonomics-instead of holding your phone down by your lap and forcing you to look down, raise your phone so that the screen is in a position that allows you to maintain good posture with your head. Try to keep your shoulder relaxed and your arm by your side. Even if you can’t maintain perfect posture, raising your head up a few inches will mean less work on your neck to support your head.

Gimme a break

Take breaks from sitting.

Gimme a break – why you should take more breaks

Standing up and walking around is a good way to take a break and is often recommended. I would also like to recommend lying down to take a break. When we look at pressures of the back and spine, sitting tends to be the worst, placing the most pressure on the low back and neck. Lying down is the best and places the least amount of pressure on the low back and neck. Another benefit of lying down is that it helps us to realign the spine into a much better posture. The muscles that typically get tight while sitting down get a chance to stretch out and relax—another way to promote better posture. The best place to lie down is the floor as it is a firm surface that will promote good spinal alignment. Your knees can be straight or bent, whichever is more comfortable. If you cannot lie on the floor, a firm surface such as the couch or a bed also works.

When you are lying down, you are in good spinal alignment and that is a great time to work on strengthening exercises. A very simple one that you can do is squeeze your shoulder blades “down and together.” This helps to strengthen and activate the muscles that hold you in good spinal alignment.

Maintaining better spinal alignment throughout the day will help to reduce neck pain that is the result of poor posture. There are more exercises that can be performed in this position as well to strengthen your postural muscles and help hold you into better alignment throughout the day.

If you would like to know more about exercises to do while laying down, improving the ergonomics on your devices, improving your posture overall, and reducing your neck pain, a physical therapist at Apex Physical Therapy and Wellness can provide individualized treatment to your specific needs.

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