Unfortunately, with all good things, there is the equal and opposite. The Yin to my yang. And with the improvements and availability in technology, we now have a new syndrome; the iHunch.
It may not sound serious but it is becoming a huge problem amongst our youth particularly, causing significant shoulder, back and neck pain, not to mention headaches…
How does iHunch happen?
The very real epidemic that is iHunch is affecting students and the country and the world; the painful result of being the first to grow up with an endless supply of smartphones, laptops, tablets and gaming consoles. It can result in permanent curvature of the spine and is the underlying problem of most neck and back issues and up to 50 percent of headaches.(2)
To put it simply, it is due to looking down far too much. As with anything, our body adapts to regular postures that we hold, so if we are regularly looking down at the device, our upper spine gradually normalises that position and loses extension. This causes our head to protrude forward and the shoulders to be hunched.
The more forward the head isthe more load on the neck.
A Finnish study found two hours or more of computer use each day was associated with a moderate to severe increase in musculoskeletal pain while another study found one in six Kiwi 15-year-olds were on the internet for more than six hours a day!(1)
How to prevent it:
For those that are suffering from it, it is absolutely best to prevent it with these great tips:
Take frequent breaks from the screen. Get outside, do some star jumps, anything to break up the repetition
Lift your phone or tablet up to eye height
Elevate your laptop or desktop computer up to face height and not on your lap
Stretch out. Stretch out in the opposite direction by arching backwards and looking back over you head
Move. Exercise is great for your health so move whenever you can and try to get out for a walk or exercise at lunch time
See your physio for some brilliant and individualised stretches and postural strengthening (3,4)
How to fix it:
There are three main things to cover:
Stretch out the hunch with some effective exercises prescribed by your physio and when needed, some hands-on treatment for those particularly stiff backs can be needed at times also
Strengthen the neck and shoulders with individualised exercises to work on your postural muscle strength
Change daily habits and work on long-term maintenance when better
So don’t let your body revert to the hunched over caveman look and it isn’t just enough to pull your shoulders back and straighten up because your body has adapted to how it is now, you need the right treatment and exercises to improve it again.
At PhysioSteps we can individually assess and treat people suffering from neck and upper back pain, as well as headaches. With this sort of pain, the faster something is done about it, the easier it is to fix, leaving you more energy and freedom to enjoy the activities you love most!