Bloggers Back: The Back Pain Epidemic
The Problem With Being A Physio.
I'm a people watcher, an observer of movement. I'm not your normal people watcher, I don't pay much attention to what people are wearing or whether they look a certain way. I observe posture, the way people move, I notice limps, paralysis of muscles, unevenness in posture, stiffness, people who are in pain even without saying anything. I can't help it, it's just the physiotherapist in me. These days I walk or cycle the streets of Amsterdam and see the trendy offices and workspaces of the entrepreneurs and business people here. But I see a big problem...
More and more people are working from laptops and smart phones than desktops these days. I see the advantages, I myself only use my laptop and phone to work from and its easy for meetings, hot desk-ing, and working from cafes and public spaces that offer free wifi. But here is the problem, people are spending long hours each week sat looking down at an electronic screen. It's the position of the neck which disturbs me, in basic ergonomics your computer screen should enable your head to be level when looking at the screen. This enables the neck and the rest of your spine to evenly distribute the weight of your head and reduce unnecessary stress or strain on the spine and surrounding tissues.
What is Bloggers Back?
'Bloggers Back', otherwise known as 'Text Neck' are keeping physiotherapists in business but the full scale of the problem is not yet known. The terms are used to describe neck or back pain sustained from looking down at your phone, iPad or laptop screen too frequently or for too long. These repetitive activities done every day can wear down the spine, however often people don't develop serious problems until much further down the line. Unfortunately by then the damage has already been done. Yes, physiotherapy and exercises can help but it cant fix everything. Cervical spinal surgeries are becoming more and more common due to the 'desk life' but the success rate is still debatable and even if surgery does work it often causes problems at different spinal levels above or below the level repaired. It's not a solution to the problem.
The average head weight about 10-11 pounds (4.5-5kg) depending on sex or size of the skull. A recent study by Surgical Technology International show that the load to your spine increases dramatically when leaning forward. At 15 degrees forward the weight is more like 27 lbs and with 30 degrees forward it's closer to 40 lbs and at 60 degrees it's almost 60 lbs weighing down on your neck and spine. Shocking right? When most people are looking down at their phone their neck angle is roughly at a 50 degree angle (so around 50 lbs of weight on your spine).
- Upper back/neck ache or sharp pain
- Spasm of upper back muscles
- Headaches/ migraines
- Shoulder pain with possible nerve symptoms like pins and needles or numbness into arm
- Jaw ache
Laptop and Desktop Stands
One of the most important things is to make sure your desk is set up ergonomically with the screen at the right height for your size (this is often difficult if you hot-desk). Nordic Appeal is a Danish company who design sustainable and portable laptop and desktop stands. Not only do they help with your posture while at work, but they also look super stylish on your desk. I take my Nordic Appeal laptop stand with me when working from cafes or hotels and I get a lot of people asking me where I got it from. Why not check out their website to see their range or products.
Tips for avoiding Bloggers Back (or Text Neck)
- Change position regularly during the day. Try not to sit for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
- Buy an ergonomic mattress/pillow. Make sure you find one that suits your sleeping style and body type.
- Incorporate neck stretches to your daily life. These can be done easily without having to stop what you are doing, try completing when brushing teeth, showering, working at your desk, on the telephone (use hands-free as much as possible), when stuck in traffic or at traffic lights etc.
- Get an Ergonomic workstation assessment and follow the recommendations made. Stand-up desks or Sit-Stand desks are becoming very popular.
- Use a laptop stand when using your laptop for long periods. Nordic Appeal have some lovely sustainable wooden ones which are easily transported.
- Start doing some core stability exercises daily at home or find a local Pilates class.
Want some further advice about how to look after your back? Contact Helen at: firstname.lastname@example.org