Technology is everywhere in modern life. Whether we're spending our day in front of a computer screen in the office, watching Britain's Olympic hopefuls on TV or hunting for Pokémon on our smart phones, we are obsessed with the digital world. And the addiction's getting worse it seems. Experts recently suggested we are a nation in need of a 'digital detox'.
While most are aware of the impact the overuse of technology can have on our social lives, many people don't realise the effect it can have on our physical health too. In particular on our neck and back. As a chiropractor, I regularly see patients who are totally unaware that their digital infatuation could be the cause or the reason for their ongoing pain.
Modern working habits are a particularly prevalent cause of back and neck pain. During long days in the office workers tend to forget their posture and hunch over the screen. This poor posture puts more stress on the spine and can lead to back or neck pain. Whilst technology use in the workplace is almost unavoidable for most people, there are ways in which we can reduce the strain that working places on our back.
Simple measures, for example ensuring that we sit up straight in our seats and adjusting our computer set-up so that the top of the screen is level with our eyes, can make a huge difference to our long-term health. Some employers also provide their staff with stand up desks to help beat the sitting epidemic.
Even outside of work we often seem to forget to factor regular movement into our daily lives. Whether we're indulging in a new Netflix series or catching up on the summers' busy schedule of sport, many of us are opting for long sessions in front of the TV over a stroll in the park. Despite this, research from the British Chiropractic Association showed that 41% of people said sitting for long periods contributed to their back or neck pain.
With at least 6,755 hours of Olympic coverage on offer this summer, some will be more at risk than ever of becoming couch potatoes! So, if you are settling down for a lazy Sunday on the sofa, try to change position every 20 minutes - 40 minutes at most, standing up and moving around. Alternatively, why not take some inspiration from Rio and get outside!
Smart phone use is continually on the rise and, with so much of both our professional and social lives revolving around technology, one of the key recommendations I make to my patients is to turn the bedroom into a tech-free zone. Research from the BCA showed that people are struggling to switch off in the evenings, with over half (54%) of us using mobile phones in bed and almost half (49%) confessing to using a laptop or a tablet at bedtime.
If you are using tech in bed, make sure your back is supported with a pillow and the device is propped up so it's at eye level. Looking down at a screen in bed means your neck won't be supported and the weight of your head leaning forward will put pressure on your back, which may cause back or neck pain. Or, why not invest in a cheap but effective old-fashioned alarm clock which means that you don't need to keep your mobile phone in the bedroom?
Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and, for many of us, the web is completely indispensable. However, it is important that we recognise the potential impact on our bodies and learn to lessen the strain on the pressure points with some simple steps. Try these easy exercises developed as part of the BCA's Straighten Up UK programme to help you improve your posture and prevent back pain.