There's no doubt that technology has its perks, from allowing us to work from all corners of the earth to meditating via an app at the touch of a finger. But despite the many advantages technology brings us every single day, it also has a downside--one that can be very painful if ignored. Americans suffer from a number of ailments relating to technology, including a type of back and shoulder pain that is now often referred to as "tech neck" (the repeated act of craning your neck forward and down over a screen, resulting in discomfort that can lead to strain and stiffness). The solution, however, isn't to disconnect and revert back to powerless Pilgrim living. Instead, heed this advice from Sonima.com's pain and anatomy advisor, Pete Egoscue: "If an activity is hurting us, take a look at the body. Pain is the body's way of trying to tell us something."
What is your body saying? It could be hinting at an imbalance. Maybe you're not vertically loaded properly--meaning your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles aren't stacking up right. Or perhaps you're just not bearing weight evenly, says Egoscue, creator of the Egoscue Method for pain-free living.
To find out exactly what your body is telling you, tune in. Once you start paying attention to the subtle signals (usually accompanied by a minor ache), stretch or shift positions to continue enjoying your TV, laptop, smartphone or whatever device is captivating your attention in comfort and with peace of body and mind. Use Egoscue's guide below to help translate your body's messages and take appropriate action.
Related: Simple Stretches for Office Workers
When this hurts: BACK, SHOULDERS, HEAD
Your body may be saying...change the way you sit.
Sitting with your shoulders slumped forward, hip flexors shortened, and back rounded can put extra stress on your lower back, which may curve into a 'C' shape instead of its natural 'S' shape. This pain doesn't come from only sitting, but also from being misaligned. Your body is compensating, Egoscue says.
Listen and learn: Look down at your feet. You want them hip-width apart facing forward with toes slightly turned in. Your knees will want to come together, but keep them out, he says. Then pull your shoulders down, relax your abs, and roll up and forward with your hips, putting an arch back into your lower back with your pelvis. In this position, he says, you're vertically loaded. "That's the way you sit without effort. Your body has just adapted and adjusted to what you have conditioned it to do." Sit like this and you could notice back and shoulder pain dissipate and even see improvements in issues, like constipation and digestion, he says.