So, be honest: How’s your posture?
Chances are, you’re probably reading this on a phone or tablet right now. It may be the third or seventh or twenty-fifth thing you’ve read online today. And you may have the neck and back strain to show for it.
With overuse of smartphones and too much sitting, many people are suffering from “text neck” – pain and strain in the neck and back, stemming from too much time staring at a screen.
Poor posture can lead to tight, weak or unbalanced muscles – which, over time, can cause back pain, headaches and other problems. Slouching can even trigger gastrointestinal problems and reduce lung capacity by up to 30 percent. Taking a mindful approach to your posture can often help.
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Stand straight – but embrace the curves
When standing, your knees should be slightly bent, with feet about shoulder-width apart and weight balanced equally between the balls of your feet. Align your ears with your shoulders, and keep your head level – not tilted forward. Check this posture every time you stand up.
Sit up to avoid “text neck”
When you read from a screen, you may naturally tilt your head and round your shoulders. But since the average adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, the pressure on your spine increases as your head tilts downward. If you spend two to four hours a day using your phone – like the average smartphone user – that means extra pressure on your spine for nearly 1500 hours every year.
When sitting, your feet should rest flat, with thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your legs uncrossed, and use a small pillow or rolled up towel to help maintain the natural curve in your lower back. And make sure your shoulders, neck and upper back are straight and neutral – not tilting or rounding forward.
Don’t just sit there
As you sit, your muscles tire, and your posture will naturally start to slump. Taking frequent breaks to stand up, stretch and move around can help remind you to check your posture – while boosting your energy and mood.
Build core strength
Your core is more than just your abs. A strong core includes the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the back, abdomen, hips and gluteus maximus. Protect your back by incorporating core strengthening into your daily routine, whether through Pilates, yoga or strength training.
Practice makes perfect
At first, these modifications may feel odd or unnatural. But if you’re consistent with checking and adjusting your posture, with time, it will become second nature. Don’t limit your posture checks to just the workday. Every time you sit down or stand up, whether driving, walking or just sitting on the couch, check your posture to help make long-term changes.
If you have neck or back pain or another spine problem, the experts of the USC Spine Center can provide a second opinion and help you stand tall again. Our physicians offer appropriate spine care, with the latest minimally invasive surgical options for quicker recoveries, and patients also have access to physical and occupational therapy. To request an appointment with a USC spine specialist, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).
North American Spine Society
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The American Chiropractic Association
The Washington Post