Did you see the article online several weeks ago about kids growing horns from cell phone use? If not, it’s worth a Google search. As someone who uses a computer all day and struggles with back pain, this really made me wonder, how is technology impacting our bodies?
I turned to my chiropractor, Dr. Stephen Uhl, President of Tri-County Spine and Rehabilitation, for his thoughts and tips on how we can live with technology without going backwards. Here’s what he had to say:
The general population has terrible posture. It seems that evolution has transformed homo sapiens from walking on their knuckles to standing upright and erect, but technology is now reversing this trend and forcing human bodies toward a fetal posture. As a professional that deals with ergonomic and postural disasters, here are my top three recommendations to save yourself decades of discomfort (and hopefully prevent you from walking on your knuckles):
1. Proper ergonomics when sitting at a computer desk
The biggest mistake I see in people who sit at a computer desk all day is sitting improperly in their chair. Be sure that your back is firmly pressed into the supportive part of your desk chair! Too often people will sit on the edge of their very expensive and ergonomic desk chair essentially diminishing the support to that of a backless bar stool. I would also recommend putting a small stool or box under the desk to place your feet on which will give you natural leverage to force your lower back into the back support of the chair. Make sure that computer monitors are at eye level and that your elbows are comfortably resting on the armrest or desk while typing, and I recommend standing up at least once every 30 minutes.
2. Proper sleeping posture
The worst thing one could possibly do to yourself while sleeping is to lay on your stomach! Sleeping on your stomach creates intense rotation of your cervical and upper thoracic spine leading to misaligned vertebrae, irritated nerves, and muscle spasms. The best way to sleep at night is on your back with support under your neck (not your head) and a good-sized pillow under your knees. An acceptable alternative is to sleep on a side with a very thick pillow for your head and a pillow in between your knees.
3. Those darn cell phones
Cellular phones and similar technology have undoubtedly changed our lives. Unfortunately, they are also changing our spines! When people look down at their cell phone, they are slowly reversing the normal curvature in their cervical spine as well as forcing their neck and upper back muscles to work overtime trying to keep their head from toppling forward. In the long-term, this creates abnormal stress points in the spine leading to premature degeneration, chronic upper back and neck tightness, headaches, and as most of us have recently seen, horns! Yes, that’s right, doctors have been noticing “horn like” projections sticking from the back of patients heads where the muscles and tendons have pulled at the attachment on the skull creating a “horn”. I instruct all of my patients to keep cell phones, tablets, books, laptops, and any other device up in front of their eyes which will reduce any forward flexion and long-term problems in the neck.
Bad posture and ergonomics is a 100% preventable chronic illness. I urge everyone to take a few minutes each day to evaluate your posture in different settings and ask yourself if improvement is possible. As we age, proactivity and good health choices will keep you a step ahead of our increasingly unhealthy general population (and hopefully off of your knuckles!).