Are you at risk of developing a “text neck”?

Chances are you’re looking down at your device to read this – head forward, shoulders rounded and back slumped putting yourself at risk of developing a “text neck”. As your upper back rounds, the head and neck start to jut forward and out of alignment placing additional weight and stress on your cervical spine. This may be causing your headaches, shoulder tightness and additional aches and pains.

Recent research highlights people are spending up to 5 hours a day on their smart phone, computer or tablet. If this is you, it might be taking a toll on your body. If you are compromising your posture and sitting for hours in a less than ideal position, your body starts to see this as the new “normal”.

How can you fix this problem without giving up your love for technology?

Pain related to technology is often related to poor ergonomics and poor posture.

Addressing any problems with your office set up is often a good place to start. Ensure you have the correct chair height, so that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are at or just below (the level of) your hips. Sitting up straight may take some serious practicing; however try to maintain good posture at your desk.

Ensure your desk and computer are set up at the right height so your head is in a neutral position with your monitor at eye-level.

Take frequent breaks from the screen. Aim for 2 minutes away from the screen every hour. Set reminders on your phone if necessary.

The easiest way to address “text neck” outside the office set up is to change the way you hold your phone. Bring the screen to eye-level so you are not slouching forward with your head out and down to view the screen.

Performing corrective exercises to balance your muscles can also improve your poor posture. Consult a registered qualified exercise professional for a more detailed program to help address your specific issues taking into account your lifestyle, health history, fitness levels and severity of the poor posture.

Try these corrective postural exercises by strengthening and stretching the muscles in your neck, upper back and upper chest.
1. Neck rotations:
These effective neck exercises will help to prevent stiffness in your neck.

How to perform this exercise:
Look gently to the left and right, aim for 10 times on each side. Try to perform these every hour throughout the day.

2. Shoulder blade pinches:
The muscles in your upper back tend to get lengthened and weakened when you are slouched forward for prolonged periods of time or as a result of performing excessive chest “push” exercises.

How to perform this exercise:
While sitting or standing straight, think eyes looking straight ahead, shoulders back, chest forward, squeeze your shoulder blades together so you could hold a pencil between them. You should feel your shoulders roll back. Aim to hold for a few seconds, release and repeat. Perform 10 reps every hour throughout the day.

3. Pectoralis stretch:
By slouching forward you easily develop rounded shoulders as well. While the upper back muscles are lengthened and weakened, the muscles in your upper chest (pectoralis minor and pectoralis major) are shortened and tight.

How to perform this stretch:
Stand in a doorway and place your forearms against each side frame of the door, with your elbows at shoulder height. With one foot forward, draw your shoulder blades together on your back and gently lean into the door. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat once more. Perform this stretch 3-4 times a day.

4. Chin tucks:
A double chin maybe a no-no in a “selfie”, but it can be good for your posture. Chin tucks strengthen the neck muscles and help pull your head back into alignment.

How to perform this exercise:
Sit up tall in a chair and keep your chin parallel to the floor. Without tilting your head in any direction, gently draw your head and chin back, like you are making a double chin. Be careful not to jam your head back. You should feel a stretch along the back of your neck. Release your chin forward. Repeat. Aim to perform 10 reps every hour throughout the day.

While the best advice is to take frequent breaks from your computer or mobile phone, these exercises, along with improving your posture, are good preventative measures. If your pain doesn’t improve, your problem maybe more serious and it is best to always seek a professional medical opinion.