Whether it’s at home in front of your laptop, during the day at university, or even on the move, more and more of us are spending large parts of our day using a computer or mobile device and as a result people are experiencing neck and back pain. BCA research from 2013 showed that 65% of 16 to 34 year olds have experienced neck or back pain and over a quarter (28%) typically used technology devices for up to eight hours a day for work purposes.
When sitting and concentrating on the screen for so long, we may not be aware that the position we are in could be harmful to our spine. Many people underestimate how much a head weighs. If people aren’t aware of their posture there is the tendency to sit in a hunched position when working on computers and laptops. This puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the neck and back because as the head leans forward over the body, the spine is under extra stress to keep the head upright.
Tablets and other tech
Technology undoubtedly plays a significant role in our daily lives. As a nation we’re using technology on the move more and more; 89% of young people use a mobile device whilst in bed, 79% do so while walking and over three quarters (76%) admit to using a mobile device whilst on the tube or train, but the knock on effect is that we now carry more gadgets around with us and spend more of our time peering into small screens and slouching over laptops which is bad for your neck and back. It is important that we recognise the potential impact on our bodies and learn to lessen the potential strain on our joints and muscles.
Whilst studying at home, especially if working from a laptop or tablet, it’s much better for your posture to sit at your desk instead of with your device on your lap or on the floor. This will encourage you to sit in an upright position, which is better for your spine. When sitting in front of your PC or laptop, sit in a chair that provides full support for your spine and make sure your shoulders, hips and knees face the same direction.
Take the time
Always take the time to adjust your chair, particularly if you share your computer with others. Your feet should be flat on the ground, with your knees bent with a slope from your hips to your knees. Arms should be by your side and bent at the elbows so that your forearms are level with the desk or table you are using. It’s important to take regular breaks to get away from the screen and stretch your legs, ideally every 30-40 minutes.
It’s important for anyone to seek professional advice if they are experiencing back pain as an undiagnosed problem could lead to longer-term damage if left untreated. For more information on how to maintain a healthy posture, the BCA has developed ‘Straighten Up’ – a simple, three minute exercise programme for all ages, designed to help strengthen the spine and improve posture and help joints. To watch a video of the exercises you can do, please visit: https://bit.ly/straightenup.
You can also find a lot of valuable posture advice at https://bit.ly/bcapostureinf.
To help maintain a better ‘computer posture’ and protect our backs, the BCA recommends employing the following simple tips:
- When sitting in front of your PC or laptop, sit in a chair that provides full support for your spine
- If you carry a laptop use a rucksack design laptop case, carry it on both shoulders and adjust the straps so that the bag is held close to your back
- Try out new gadgets before you buy them to make sure they’re comfortable to use and spend time setting them up in a way that works well for you
- Don’t carry too many items in your bag all the time. Get in the habit of only packing what you need each day and avoid ‘doubling up’ on your tech
- When using your mobile, laptop or tablet whilst sitting down, including on your commute, take the time to break position on a regular basis and stretch your arms, shrug your shoulders and move your fingers around as this helps to keep the muscles more relaxed