habit

Beat the iHunch

 

There is no denying that we live in the ‘technological era’. Humans are constantly on the go looking for new and improved ways to maximise time, energy and enjoyment. Whether this means streaming music, capturing that ‘award-winning’ picture, engaging in the latest Twitter debate, or texting friends/family, it’s all done on technological devices of one sort or another. In fact, the majority of you reading this article will own at least one technological device. Take a second to add up the number of hours each day that you spend on your device. Is it one, two, five, or even ten?

That wee calculation isn’t of any real benefit, but your posture is of utmost importance and the awkward positions we find ourselves in whilst using these devices will not help.

I would like to introduce to you the term the ‘iHunch’.

iHunch is a term used to describe the common spinal problem at the level of the cervicothoracic junction (CT junction) causing neck pain/dysfunction and cervicogenic headaches. It is most commonly associated with forward head posture, a poking chin posture, and/or a ‘dowager’s hump’ (hunching over). 

Anatomically, the cervicothoracic junction is located at the very bottom of the neck. More specifically, this is where the neck (cervical spine) connects with the upper back (thoracic spine). This spinal segment is unique because it is the point of transition from the highly flexible neck, connecting to the nearly completely inflexible upper back. It is also the point where the lordosis, or backward curvature of the cervical spine reverses into kyphosis, (or forward curvature) of the upper back.

The arrival of laptops, smartphones and tablets has seen a marked rise in the prevalence of postural related pain. Unlike desktop computers, these portable devices are not typically used in ergonomically correct workstations because the screens do not separate from the keyboards. To adapt to this, we naturally hunch over them inappropriately flexing at the CT junction.

If your head is bent forward at 60 degrees (to look at your mobile device), the load on your neck increases by up to five times. Sustaining this position for any length of time means our muscles strain, lengthen and weaken. Also the spinal joints compress, and nerves exiting from the neck may become compromised. Physiotherapists are seeing more than ever pain caused around the CT junction and an increase in irreversible disc degeneration in young people.

EXAMPLE OF NECK MUSCLE STRAIN THROUGH POOR POSTURE

 

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT POOR POSTURE?

Whatever the device is, give yourself a few minutes break every hour. During work, make a point of getting up and going for a walk. Additionally, where possible try to spend less time on these devices each day, particularly outside of work hours. Where possible, use a docking station or desktop computer, and if you need to use your phone then raising the height of the device toward eye level can help to reduce the stress and strain on your neck. When at home, raise laptops on pillows, or sync to your natural eye line.  In order to counteract these hunched postures that we are starting to maintain day in and day out, why not make your body work in a different way and get active. 

It is never too late to build a stronger, better you! If you would like to obtain some expert postural advice or hands on treatment to mobilise and strengthen your neck and shoulder region, then please pop into Habit and book a session with one of our knowledgeable Physiotherapists.  

Kate Clayton is a Senior Physiotherapist at Habit Petone.


REFERENCES 

  1. Josie Cochrane, "iHunch affecting ill-postured student masses",Critic, Issue 10, 2014
  2. Amy Cuddy, "Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood",New York Times Sunday Review, Dec 12, 2015
  3. "Do you suffer from iPosture?",Daily Mail Australia, 1 October 2013
  4. Becca Ferguson, "Neck & iPosture Issues",Mindfull Alexander Technique
  5. "Poke Chin Posture, Dowagers Hump",Woodlands Physiotherapy
  6. KK Hansraj, "Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head.",Surgery Technology International., Nov 25, 2014:277-9
  7. Ruth Jackson "The Classic: The Cervical Syndrome", Clinical Orthopeadics and Related Research, v.468(7); 2010 Jul: 1739–1745
  8. Paula T Hakala, Lea A Saarni, Raija-Leena Punamäki, Marjut A Wallenius, Clas-Håkan Nygård and Arja H Rimpelä "Musculoskeletal symptoms and computer use among Finnish adolescents - pain intensity and inconvenience to everyday life: a cross-sectional study’', BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 22 March 2012: doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-41
  9. Fejer R1, Kyvik KO, Hartvigsen J "The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: a systematic critical review of the literature.",European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, 2006 Jun;15(6)):834-48
  10. "Smartphone addiction creating generation of teenage hunchbacks”,New Zealand Herald, Sunday Oct 18, 2015
  11. Stephen August "Steve August: the iHunch”,Saturday Morning: Radio New Zealand, 16 November 2013
  12. “The iHunch analysed”
  13. Hansraj KK. "Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head”,Surgical Technology International, 2014 Nov;25::277-9