As Chartered Physiotherapists, here at The Green Clinic we are seeing ever-increasing numbers of tweens and teens presenting with previously rare symptoms – pain in the neck, shoulders and wrist, and headaches. We have to ask – why?
Youngsters are spending unprecedented hours on gadgets and computers, while there is little education about how to protect your posture during usage. Even without the presence of modern technology, most people don’t sit or stand properly, curving their spine too much backwards or forwards – add a laptop, computer, iPad or textbook, and the problem magnifies further.
Frequently people hunch forward, or peer at the screen jutting their chins forward. This results in strain being placed on the vertebrae, muscles and ligaments in the upper back, or the joints at the back of the neck being compressed.
Looking down at a book or tablet device also strains the muscles between neck and shoulder which support the head. And hours spent gaming in one position only increases the strain on muscles and ligaments – eventually resulting in increased wear and tear on the spine.
So – what can we do?
The ideal posture of the upright spine is actually not straight, but a gentle S-shaped curve. Ideally, one should try to sit in proper alignment all the time, strengthening the back muscles to support the body. Ensuring the proper set-up of your child’s seat, keyboard & computer screen will also help.
When revising or reading, propping up a textbook is much better for neck alignment than having it flat on the desk.
A few stretches every 45 minutes or so, or getting up for a short walk, is an easy way to ease mind AND body.
Children are writing less and less, leading to wrist pain when they have to sit exams or write homework. Again, taking a break, massaging the aching area and ensuring good wrist support will alleviate symptoms.
Finally – as parents – remember that our kids are developing rapidly, and what we allow them to do today will affect them tomorrow and beyond. We endorse and recommend regular “unplugged” time!
Written by Stephen Parkus MCSP SRP, Chartered Physiotherapist and proprietor of The Green Clinic.