We’ve discussed computer use for ourselves, but how about our children? We need to see to it that they are taking care of their bodies as they use technology as well. The earlier good habits are developed, the better.
Have you ever watched someone else using a cell phone? Was their posture good or poor? Most likely it was quite poor. When we get focused on a phone or tablet, we tend to want to create some “private space.” To do that, we pull our heads and necks forward and curl our upper body into a ball to get that private feeling. If someone is talking on the phone, they may also be hunching their shoulder up to cradle the phone next to their ear.
Technology is wonderful, but it comes at a price to our bodies. Tablet use has led to a new form of repetitive strain injury dubbed “i-pad hand” or “text claw.” This results when people hold their device in their (typically) left hand for long periods of time with the corner of the tablet pushing into the tensed thumb muscle (similar to the way they would hold a plate). Users are experiencing aches and pain in the left hand. This can also progress to pain up the arm and into the shoulders and neck. A few users have reported symptoms as devastating as paralysis.
Stop a moment to notice what you are doing with the mouse right now as you read. Are you gripping it for dear life? Do you actually need to be holding the mouse at all? As you move the mouse around, are you putting tension in your shoulders, arms, or hand? How about when you click—are you using the minimum amount of energy necessary, or are you pounding on it? Where is the mouse—are you having to reach to use it?
Repetitive Strain Injury has become a common disorder since the advent of the computer. We can type so much more quickly on a computer keyboard than we could on a typewriter. That means that we are requiring our hands to do considerably more work in the same eight hours a day than we used to.
Where are your legs right now as you are reading this? Tucked under you? Crossed? Wrapped around your chair legs? There is no one “correct” position for your legs, but there are some positions which are less likely to create painful issues for you.
Last time we discussed your sit bones. Now let’s look at your head’s role in computer posture—or your posture at any time!
With your upper body balanced over the sit bones, let’s look at your head. Take a moment to be aware of your head. Where is it? Is it balanced over the top of your spine, or is it leaning forward to see the screen? The second option is all too common. The head is at the opposite end of the spine from the sit bones. It counterbalances the sit bones. If either end is out of balance, then the whole upper body is compromised.
No matter how great our furniture is, if we are contorting our bodies in unnatural ways while we are using the furniture, we will still experience pain.
Any time we balance on the correct part of our skeleton, the muscles are not overworked to hold us up. We have several balancing points in our torso. If we allow those to line up, then we will be held upright by the skeleton and the muscles that were designed to do the job. A typical slumping posture may seem to be more relaxed, but it actually leads to more tension.
Today almost all of us love the things technology can do for us. It can help us find the information we need, entertain us, or connect us to anyone in the world. What we don’t love so much is the way we often feel after we have spent time in front of our laptop, tablet or cell phone. Many common complaints today can be traced back to our use of technology: Pain and fatigue in the muscles and joints, nerve injuries, high blood pressure, decreased muscle strength, and muscle swelling have all been associated with long periods of computer use. New terms have even been coined recently to describe some of this. You’ve probably heard of “text neck” or “text thumbs.”