Many people slouch or strain their necks while working at the computer. A new study shows how jutting the head forward to read more closely compresses the neck and leads to neck and shoulder problems.
Archimedes promised that, given a long enough lever, he could promptly move the world. Human anatomy promises that computer viewing which transforms your neck into a lever will promptly move you into a world of hurt.
The scenario is universal. You’re staring at your computer. The screen seems a little too distant. It’s also a little too low. So you are leaning forward in your chair. Your head is jutting even further forward. Your neck is now tilted at about a 60° angle away from the rest of your spine.
When we are reading, we instinctively want our line of sight to be perpendicular to the document we are looking at. So you tilt your head back and jut your jaw forward.
- You now portray what a turtle using a computer would look like, if turtles used computers, or
- When turtles begin to use computers, they will look exactly like you do now.
“Turtle-at-the-computer” or forward neck posture is called “neck scrunching”
Researchers at San Francisco State University (SFSU) call this forward neck posture “neck scrunching”. The results of their recent study, as published in the journal Biofeedback, show that just 30 seconds of scrunching is very likely to cause back, neck and shoulder pain. Prolonged scrunching inevitably leads to muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, and inability to concentrate.
Why does my neck hurt while using my computer?
The average human head weighs around 12 pounds. When your neck is in alignment with the rest of your spine, 12 pounds is easy to support. But when your head projects forward at a severe angle from your spine, your neck becomes a lever. In that posture, the physics of leverage effectively make your head weigh 45 pounds or more. It’s no wonder that scrunching makes your neck stiff and sore, and makes pain radiate into your trapezoids and upper back.
Computer use often causes neck and shoulder pain
Erik Peper, an Associate Professor of Holistic Health at San Francisco State University, teamed with Richard Harvey, an SFSU Professor of Health Education, to study some of the ways computer use affects human physiology.
- In their first experiment, they enlisted 87 students. The volunteers sat with their heads, necks, and backs aligned as if there was a taut cord between the ceiling and the top of their heads. While in that proper posture, the students were asked to test how far they could turn their heads to each side. The participants were then asked to extend their heads forward, scrunch their necks, and test their ability to turn their heads. 92% reported their necks were far more flexible in the first position, i.e., when not scrunched.
- In the second project, 125 students were told to assume a scrunched posture for 30 seconds. 98% of these participants reported that even that short interval resulted in neck and head pain, including pain in their eyes.
- In the third component of their study, Peper and Harvey monitored 12 students with electromyography equipment. They found that tension in the trapezius muscle (it runs from your neck to your shoulder) significantly increased in the “turtle at the computer” posture and resulted in neck and shoulder pain.
Quick and effective fixes for pain from using your computer are available
- Make sure you have a chair that provides complete back support, including a bulge in the lower back (lumbar) area. If your chair doesn’t provide good lumbar support, use a small tubular cushion. Then utilize that support by remaining in an upright position. Visualize that cord from the top your head to the ceiling. Make it tight. Use an imaginary pulley if necessary.
- Okay, now you’re sitting up straight, and your back is fully supported. But a consequence of that proper posture is that the screen is both too low and too far away. Well, elevate the screen. It’s not hard to do. Put something under it. Use that Thomas Pynchon novel you were never going to finish anyway.
- Now you have the center of the monitor screen an inch or two above eye level. But you’ll notice you still need to lean forward to read the available information about the latest uproar in Buckingham Palace (or the White House). Again, it’s easy to fix. Increase the font size. Keep doing it until you can see the text clearly.
- Make sure your eyesight is optimized. See your optician or use non-prescription computer specific glasses that are available almost everywhere.
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Read the full article at: www.sciencedaily.com
Dr. Vahedifar's pain management strategies integrate cutting-edge medical technology with targeted interventions to minimize pain and treat pain’s underlying causes.
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