Is Technology Breaking Your Back?

The latest gadgets could be hurting you.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. But modern devices like laptop computers, tablet computers, smart phones and PDAs can take a physical toll on your body.

Your neck and shoulders are the most likely to be affected by the use of devices like these, says Jesse Cannone, a fitness trainer and founder of the Healthy Back Institute.

“Most neck and back pain is caused by muscle imbalances that happen when we use one group of muscles more than their counterparts,” he explains. “That’s what happens when we spend hours each day staring down at our digital devices.”

For example, laptop monitors usually sit lower than traditional desktop monitors do, making it harder to adjust your chair height properly—if you’re even sitting at a desk. These days, it’s just as likely you’ll be on the move.

Let’s say you’re at the airport working on a laptop, Cannone says. Not only are you looking down but you’re probably hunched over and leaning forward. This posture is bound to make your neck and shoulders ache.

He offers these tips for avoiding what’s become widely known as “tech neck”:

  • Try to minimize how much you use devices that keep your head staring downward.
  • Take frequent breaks to get up, walk around and stretch. Use your device to remind you periodically.
  • Be mindful of the way you position your device. Hold smaller devices at chest or eye level; use stands to place larger devices like laptops at a comfortable height.

To loosen up your muscles, try the neck sequence recommended by Cannone (in the box at right) throughout the day.

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