Are smart phones to blame for your back pain?

Let’s start by talking about back pain. A third of people surveyed in a recent Nuffield health study* had reported suffering from back pain for more than a year, a quarter for more than two years and one in seven for 5 years or more

You might have heard buzzwords such as ‘text neck’ and ‘Ipad thumbs’ getting a lot of attention recently.  As qualified DSE (display screen equipment) assessors, we wanted to dispel some myths surrounding these headlines and give you the facts about the long-lasting effects smart technology can have on our posture, health and wellbeing.

Tech neck

On average we spend at least 3.9 years of our lives on our phones. As well as being a tad antisocial, it also paves the way for numerous health hazards when used incorrectly. The issue is the curvature of the neck and cervical spine when we stare down at our phone. This not only hinders respiration but also puts additional pressure on your neck and shoulders.

We have seen an overwhelming number of people of all ages coming to us to ease their neck pain and the real key here is prevention (especially with children growing up with wireless tech). When you use your phone, bring it up to meet your eye level. If you regularly use a phone for your job, make sure that you keep it close or get a headset. Regularly over-reaching for the phone can contribute to shoulder pain.

Tablet related injuries

Repetitive strain injury is a big issue in modern workplaces. If you have spent a lifetime clicking a mouse, it can quickly spiral from numbness to a debilitating issue. With constant access to social media and email, it is easy to clock up a healthy amount of hours swiping on your IPad, and typing at an unnatural angle against the screen.

Holding the Ipad, or supporting it against your palm with one hand can also cause back pain by locking the shoulders in a fix position. If you regularly use tablet devices for work, make sure that you are using a stand and ideally a wireless keyboard to gain a better distance between your eyes and the screen. It’s also important to squeeze as much movement into your day as possible. You can achieve this by taking regular screen breaks, standing desks, dynamic chairs or simply making sure you get away from your desk at lunch.

A generation of musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are usually caused by a combination of factors including poor posture and weak spinal supporting muscles due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. This lifestyle is particularly detrimental to the musculoskeletal health of a generation growing up with smart technology. In the UK alone, 27% of children under the age of eight now own a tablet*, but there is very little information available on the long term effects/how to use them safely. It is inevitable that we will all be using these devices; We think it is important to make sure that there is an early intervention in younger Ipad users to prevent poor posture later in life.

Prevention not cure

  • Make sure that children still regularly use paper and pencil. This action will continue to strengthen the muscles in the wrist. It sounds obvious, but with Ipads and laptops prevalent, children are forgoing the need to write at earlier ages.
  • Use a timer or application to monitor the time spent on these devices. There are a multitude of free timers available on the app store, and some can lock the device after a set period of time (we do not take responsibility for any subsequent tantrums).

Bottom line – it’s time to get moving. Making sure that we don’t stay in these static positions can help us combat these poor postures.

If you want some more information about tech related musculoskeletal disorders, speak to one of us here at Posture People, download our free guides on setting up a healthy workstation or give it up altogether with our top tips for a digital detox
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*Findings from research conducted by Orangebox Mobile Generations

Do you need some advice about your workplace?

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