How close is your face to your screen as you read this?
If it's too close—as it is for many Americans, for hours each day—you could be setting yourself up for neck pain and other health issues.
"Especially over the last two years, with more work and school becoming remote and people spending more time at home, we have seen an increase in neck pain related to posture while using computers and mobile devices,” says Caroline Egloff, P.T., D.P.T., with Carilion Clinic Sports Performance and Rehabilitation.
Think about it: An adult's head weighs about 11 pounds. Depending on how far forward your head goes, you can create up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine. And in fact, you can see people doing exactly that while using their devices, just about anywhere you look.
This unnatural forward posture is sometimes called “text neck”—and it can affect your health.
"While using a device, the screen should be at your eye level," says Caroline. "Keep your shoulders back and try to maintain a nice, tall posture."
Poor posture could be to blame for symptoms that include:
- Back, neck and shoulder pain
- Stiffness and decreased range of motion
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Pinched nerves
- Herniated disks
- Spine degeneration
How's Your Posture?
Next time you’re using your phone or computer, try setting a timer for 15 minutes and then checking your posture. Do you find that your head is sinking forward closer to the screen?
Next time you’re driving, check your rearview mirror and notice your posture. Do you find that as you get tired, you lean closer to the steering wheel?
These are signs that your posture could be putting you at risk for pain and injury.
Caroline says it's easily correctable.
“The best thing that you can do is move,” she says. “Our bodies crave movement. Even staying in a perfect posture all day, every day won’t be comfortable to the body. Our neck is at its healthiest when we are flexible and keep it moving.”
The Right Moves
Caroline recommends setting aside a few minutes twice a day to perform two sets of 10 repetitions for each of these exercise.
Seated Scapular Retraction
Begin seated in an upright position. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together. Relax, then repeat.
Seated Cervical Retraction
Begin seated in an upright position. Gently draw your chin in, keeping your eyes fixed on something in front of you.
Seated Thoracic Lumbar Extension
Begin seated in an upright position with your arms folded across your chest. Slowly arch your trunk backward and hold. Return to an upright position and repeat.