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Be Smart Over Smart Tech

In my previous blog we were discussing about ‘Tech Neck’ in detail to show the relevance of posture in the origin of neck, upper back  and upper extremity pain. For those who have not read my previous blog, kindly read the previous one in conjunction with this one for better understanding and follow through. Following are certain suggestions I make in my clinic or while giving lecture to students and at ergonomic consultations in work places.

  • Have a wireless mouse is the first step.

This will allow you enough freedom to move your arm and shoulder without restriction by the wired connection.

  • Make sure the monitor is at your eye level. 

You can tilt the monitor to adjust so that you are not thrusting your head forward.Make the necessary changes on the monitor itself to ease your body, rather than changing your positions to adjust to the monitor.

  • Rather than moving your neck closer to the monitor while working, move your whole body closer to the work station so that your chest is touching the workstation. Monitor at eye level and you moving closer further facilitates an upright posture. 
  • Make sure you are sitting all the way back to the backrest of the chair, so that there is no room to slouch. Adding a McKenzie lumbar roll reinstates good posture and is a quick reminder.
  • Have chairs with armrest.

This will help you to rest your elbows on the armrest  while working on the computer. Alternatively, you can rest the entire elbow on the workstation which will further relax your shoulder girdle muscles.

  • While working on desktop or laptops, rather than moving your head up and down and side to side, make a habit of moving your eyeballs up – down, side to side.
  • While seated, ideally both thighs should be parallel to the floor which make even distribution of weight through buttock region and thighs. Chairs which are too high make your feet dangle and also tilt the pelvis forward causing exaggerated lumbar curvature and too low chairs cause the pelvis to fallback leading to a rounded back. Both positions are strenuous to the lower spine and a precursor for disc diseases.  
  • Practice ‘Active Sitting’, where a person has to engage muscles of back and core to sit up straighter and taller. Good posture is a good habit and one has to put effort towards it, you know it’s significance when you lose it. 
  • The 20 minute rule.

Ideally one is suppose to take a screen break and stretch every 20 minutes. But in real life this seldom happens. Try to look away from the screen in between work or close your eyes and change positions in between tasks. 

To prevent the Overuse Syndrome in the hand and neck region which manifests as discomfort, aches, pain or tingling  and fatigue – practice the following while using your smart phones.

  • Hold the smartphone higher at eye level with one arm resting against the chest and the hand holding the phone over the folded arm. This is more relaxing to the shoulder and neck region than just holding with one or either hands at eye level.

Use the device’s inbuilt digital assistants like  Siri, Alexa, Cortona or Google voice recognition and commands to browse, text or to email. 

  • Enable the word prediction features to decrease the amount of keystrokes, swipe to text feature and adjust brightness and font size in the device for the ease of reading.
  • Alternate thumb and fingers to type. 

It may be unnatural in the beginning, but it doesn’t take too long to master it. Also, change hand grip in between and alternate between hands.

  • Using the phone in vertical orientation help to reduce for respective keys and thereby avoiding strain on fingers. 
  • Use your devices accessories like folding case, tablet stand, an easy grip case, portable ergonomic keyboards, earphones with inbuilt microphones for ease of usage.
  • Hold your phone in one hand at eye level and text with the other hand alternatively, leaving the phone on a hard surface might also help. Adding a privacy screen will force you to keep your head up to view or text.
  • Take frequent breaks, stretch often and decrease the amount you spend on these devices. 

All said and done, the usage of smart devices is not going to decrease. It’s like the statutory warning on the cigarette packages. Creating awareness among people is of utmost importance as Posture is a behavior and one has to put a conscious effort to maintain and retain it. Yes, Be smart over your smart devices.

Sinju Thomas DPT, OCS, Cert.MDT
CEO & Senior Physical Therapist

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