Taming technology

Our tech gadgets are indispensible but what can you do the lessen the impact?

There is no doubt technology has changed our lives for the better but research* commissioned by the British Chiropractic Association reveals the potential impact of the incorrect use of gadgets on our health. With almost a quarter (24%) of the nation complaining of back, neck or shoulder pain whilst using or carrying gadgets and almost a third of the nation (29%) typically carrying two or more items of technology a day with them, it seems that some are starting to feel the strain.

The survey reveals how the explosion in smartphone use may have contributed to this, with over two-fifths (44%) of those who use a smartphone in a typical day spending between 30 to 120 minutes per day using smartphones for non call related tasks such as texting, surfing, apps and social networking. It seems the need to keep in touch with friends and constantly update our social networks whilst bent over a small screen could be helping to drive the trend. Another factor linked to smartphone use is the large increase in the use of micro-blogging sites such as Twitter, as people regularly update friends on daily experiences whilst out and about. Over the past year Twitter has seen a staggering 182% increase in mobile users, an average of 140 million Tweets sent every day; and with 460,000 new accounts being opened daily the trend shows no sign of slowing down**.

Laptop use also appears to be a major culprit with over half (58%) of those consumers questioned typically using laptops on a daily basis and 27% of those questioned who say they are currently suffering from back or neck pain use laptops in a typical day for more than two hours and up to four hours a day. At the same time, our adoption of tablet PC technology also appears to be gathering pace, with 18% of those who use a tablet PC in a typical day using it for more than 2 hours and up to 4 hours a day.

Stephen Connolly of Inspire Chiropractic comments: “There is no doubt that technology plays a significant role in our daily lives, however the knock on effect is that we now carry more gadgets around with us and spend more of our time peering into small screens. It is important that we recognise the potential impact on our bodies and learn to lessen the impact on pressure points with some simple steps. It is particularly important now more than ever with 36% of the nation currently suffering from back or neck pain.”***

Here are some simple hints and tips so that you can text, surf and play:

  • When sitting in front of your PC or laptop, sit in chairs that provide full support for your spine and make sure your shoulders, hips and knees face the same direction.
  • Your seat should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the ground, and knees bent, but with a slope from your hips to your knees. You should end up with your hips higher than your knees and your eyes level with the top of the computer screen. You may need to put the screen on a stand, book or ream of paper to bring it to the right height.
  • The head is a heavy weight and sitting with it forward of your body puts unnecessary strain on your neck and back, so always sit with your head directly over your body.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for more than 40 minutes, less if possible. When you do take a break, walk around and stretch a little.
  • If you carry a laptop use a rucksack design laptop case, carry it on both shoulders and adjust the straps so that the bag is held close to your back.
  • Try out new gadgets before you buy them to make sure they’re comfortable to use, and spend time setting them up in a way that works well for you.
  • Don’t carry so many items in your bag all the time, only pack what you need each day and avoid ‘doubling up’ on your tech i.e. camera and smartphone if at all possible.
  • If using your mobile, smartphone, laptop or tablet whilst sitting down, including on your commute, take the time to break position on a regular basis and stretch your arms, shrug your shoulders and move your fingers around as this helps to keep the muscles more relaxed.
  • Avoid surfing and texting whilst walking as your lack of concentration is likely to cause some kind of problem!

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2034 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th -21st September 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

** Figures published by Twitter.com http://blog.twitter.com/2011/03/numbers.html

***Research of 2,000 respondents carried out in March 2010