A freelance writer, Sally Keys, has offered me a succinct article on how to manage back and neck pain due to the modern way of work and reading. What with laptops, cell phones and even table top computers ruling and ruining our lives, this may help you take control, not just of your spine but of your life.
But first let me address this topic from another angle.
Posture is generally believed to be not as good in the modern West as it may have been in other parts of the world or other times in history. A variety of lifestyle factors may be at play.
For example, our ancestors walked a lot, sat a little and mostly just to rest their legs. Those who could afford a beast of burden may have sat either on the animal’s back or on a bench/seat above some wheels that surely did not have shock absorbers. To travel a few miles may have been a serious strain on the buttocks and spine as this could take hours. Yes, we sit in our cars a lot but even a long commute – over 30 minutes – is not nearly as long as it was for our forefathers, and ours are a lot more cushioned.
And, yes, our ancestors carried heavy objects just to live, such as water, building products like rocks, etc, and their muscles were well trained. But enough carrying stoops the shoulders and spine eventually. There are some cultures where heavy objects are carried ON the head and those folks have impeccable posture…while they are young. Eventually, time and age take their toll and I’m sure posture wanes as arthritis rears its ugly head.
Finally, our propensity for comfort has even distorted how we poop: sitting on a toilet. The rest of the world, modern and not so modern, squat, deep. And in some cultures, rather than a chair, they hunker down, thighs to chest, butt to heels, and can stay there long and even rise from there afterwards way longer than elite power lifters can.
In other words, many things contribute to poor posture and few of us are willing to alter our lifestyles entirely to prevent it from deteriorating further.
Then the question of ‘can you train to correct posture’ has to be addressed. I believe you can strengthen and stretch the muscles early in life to make a difference but even there many factors come in to the equation: self-concept is one big one but so are social settings. Tall people, especially young females in early puberty who tend to be taller than their male classmates, tend to slouch. Overweight people tend to slouch as their weighted bellies create a lordosis that requires the neck to go into a kyphosis to keep the head vertical. Then you have work, school, and R&R factors to consider as anti-posture hours in our days.
Those with good posture tend to have excellent muscle tone from either strength training or sport/art training, such as dancing or martial arts. But these are activities of youth, and are more apt to succumb to the lifestyle factors that bring us down and eventually out of that good posture.
In all, it is my contention, based on my life’s and work experience, that you cannot train for good posture; achieving good posture is, for lack of better words, a state of mind. You must constantly think about and resume it. For some it is very natural; for others, like those with scoliosis or congenitally-kyphotic cervical or hyper-kyphotic thoracic spines, it’s almost impossible. But we can train the muscles that support the structures we associate with ‘good posture’, such as the core, the spinal and neck muscles, even the shoulder muscles; we can stretch those that are tight and pulling us out of good posture.
But I really think people fall into poor posture easier than they do good, healthy posture. But that does not mean you should give up. Sally tells us why and maybe offers some hows that you can live with:
What Current Research Says About Back Pain Causes and Potential Relief
In an increasingly connected world, we are using electronic devices more and more. New research shows that along with the pressure to keep up on social media, massive consumption of news and entertainment on our devices, and communicating with work, friends, and family via messaging, we are spending more of our life staring straight down at a screen. The result is an increased incidence of chronic neck and back pain.
Is Tech Causing Your Back Pain?
The study, performed by the British Chiropractic Association finds that tech is the underlying cause of many new cases of chronic neck and back pain, but also that we are unlikely to change our usage habits due to feeling pain and discomfort.
Even though 56 percent of participants complained of experiencing back and neck pain related to use of their digital device, only 27 percent would agree to limit or stop using their devices.
Younger Chronic Back Pain Sufferers
Another revelation was that there were more cases of younger people experiencing ongoing or chronic discomfort than was expected.
● One in seven 16 – 24-year-olds reported experiencing back or neck pain when they used their smartphones
● Half of the 25 – 34-year-olds polled admitted they suffered after using a laptop
These results are startling, indicating that many people will risk their health and well-being to keep connected to technology. So, what can be done for this type of neck and back pain?
Head Forward Posture
There are many ways to decrease back pain. Observing good posture is one key element. The head forward posture that has become so common when interacting with our handhelds is the worst aggravator for back pain and can cause nerve damage as well, over time. For every inch you lean forward from the neutral neck position, you increase the weight pressure on your spine ten pounds. For most of us, this means we are regularly putting an extra 30 pounds of pressure on our neck and back tissue.
Exercises to Relieve Back and Neck Stress
Proper head and neck positioning are critical to improving your posture and decreasing your pain.
● Keep your shoulders back.
● You should feel a slight tension in your chest muscles when your shoulders are pulled back to the appropriate position.
● Your chin should always be at a 90-degree angle from your chest. This will correct the forward head posture mentioned previously.
● Remember that it is ok to lift your device up so that your head and neck remain in a neutral posture.
● Avoid sitting on the floor when using your devices as this causes pronounced curvature of the spine.
Yoga and stretching are fantastic for elongating the muscles and spine. This will relieve back pain and improve your posture at the same time. There are several yoga poses known to improve back and neck pain. These include:
The Child’s Pose
Chronic back pain affects millions of Americans every day. There are many causes for this. However, new research suggests that poor posture from the overuse of technology like handheld devices are contributing to more pain and in a younger population. Practicing proper body mechanics and posture is the best way to prevent the onset of pain. Stretches and exercises like yoga can offer relief from pain, as well.