Chronic Neck and Back Pain – Technology to Blame?

Our modern society provides us with many benefits and comforts, which can be accredited to our advancement in technology. I remember learning about the Internet for the first time when I was in high school. I belong to the last generation that remembers life before the Internet. It’s hard to believe since the Internet is such a large part of our daily lives now. It is integrated into our work, our private lives and inside every professional setting. If we’re not on our computers, most of us are staring down at our cell phones. Sadly, being inundated with technology comes with a price. It promotes sedentary lifestyles and the lack of movement and exercise consequently creates many health problems.

I see more patients with neck and back pain than I would like to admit. I would say about 85% of my patients suffers from this and most of them work at a desk. The average work week is no longer bound to the “normal” 40 hours. Many of my patients work 40-60+ hours a week on average. With deadlines and high pressured environments, people will work at their desk for many hours in a row without moving or getting up. I used to work in large corporate companies and I remember during busy times, I would sit at my desk from 8am to 1pm without getting up once.  It’s crazy but it happens! We get caught up in the work and staring at computer screens can distort our sense of time.

So how can we break this horrible pattern? Of course many people do not have the luxury to change their jobs, but we do have the power to change how we work. We can implement small routines and exercises that have large influence in preventing physical body pain and long term health problems. First, I recommend putting a timer on your calendar or phone. Everyone should get up from their desk at every hour. Secondly, stretches can help minimize aches and pain. It’s not about spending long hours stretching; however, it works if you can do stretches frequently and in small doses. Below is a great visual aid that you can print and post on your wall at home or at work. Thirdly, if you have 10-20 minutes, go for a light walk and swing your arms gently. Stay relaxed and focus on your breath. This will help relax your muscles and rib-cage, which is a common place we hold stress. Lastly, make sure your work station is ergonomic and fits your body.  Lift your computer screen up to your viewing height, so that you’re not looking downward.  Adjust your chair and arm rest for maximum comfort.  I encourage you to find small routines that you enjoy to help break up the work day.  Stay positive!

-Christy Ouk, LAc, EAMPcomputer_stretch

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