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Home / Fitness / Stop slouching! It’s time to save your neck

Stop slouching! It’s time to save your neck

Holding up a 5kg head is no picnic, especially if you’re constantly looking down at a screen. See what happens when your neck gets tired, and overused.

fitness Updated: Nov 23, 2019 18:33 IST
Puneeta Mahadevia
Puneeta Mahadevia
Hindustan Times
Looking down at your phone forces your neck muscles to bend forward, a strain on the neck, back and shoulders.
Looking down at your phone forces your neck muscles to bend forward, a strain on the neck, back and shoulders.

You’re probably doing it when you’re reading and scrolling, but it’s changing your whole body. The average head weighs 5kg so it’s no surprise that keeping it upright seems like a task. But the way we sit is now slowly altering our skeletal system. Australian researchers David Shahar and Mark Sayers have found that many teens are developing an extra bone at the base of the back of their skulls as a result of poor posture. It’s the kind of growth they’d only see in old people, those with a lifetime of adjusting to the head’s load. But young people are developing it to support weak muscles when they crane forward.

What’s affecting our posture?

* The infamous text neck: Looking down at your phone makes your neck muscles bend forward to hold the weight of your head.

* The also common desk neck: Our bodies are designed for movement. Staring at a screen for hours means the body hunches to adapt.

* The way you sleep: When you sleep, your body tends to rest in the same position for long stretches. Sleeping on your back or on your side is usually recommended, sleeping on your stomach isn’t. And it helps to use cushions to support the natural curve of your spine.

* All that worrying: Tense shoulders often accompany stress, adding to your neck woes. Yoga and meditation can help you relax.

It’s more than a pain in the neck

“Bad posture can lead to cervicogenic headaches,” says Mumbai physiotherapist Dr Priyal Merchant. “Sometimes, if people don’t realise that these headaches originate from the neck, they take medicines or painkillers to treat them without dealing with the root cause of the problem.” If your posture is poor, you also run the risk of getting Upper Crossed Syndrome, a muscle imbalance characterised by weak upper-back muscles and tightness on the front of your torso.

Get your head in the game; do these twice a day

Exercises: Repeat 10 times and hold for 10 seconds each time

* Chin tucks: Place your fingers on your chin and draw it backwards towards your spine.

* Shoulder strengthening: Keep your shoulders relaxed. Then, push them back, hold and release.

Stretches: Repeat three times and hold for 20-30 seconds each time

Sit on a stool or chair and place your right hand on its side. Bring your left hand over to the right side of your head and pull your head to the left. Repeat for the left side.
Sit on a stool or chair and place your right hand on its side. Bring your left hand over to the right side of your head and pull your head to the left. Repeat for the left side.

* Stand straight. Place your right hand on your back (your elbow should form a right angle). Place your left hand on the right side of your head and pull your head to the left. Repeat this for the left side as well.

Sit right

At a work desk, sit with your neck upright, elbows close to your body and shoulders back. Ensure that the top of your computer screen is at or just below eye level. “You shouldn’t slouch but you shouldn’t be arching your back either,” says Dr Merchant. Your feet should also be placed flat on the ground; foot rests can help.

And take breaks. “You should ideally stand up every 30-40 minutes and walk around the office for a short span of time,” says Dr Merchant.

Get tech to help

Sit App Straight: Many apps and browser extensions have been designed for posture improvement.

* Limber, a Chrome extension, reminds you to stretch and loosen up at regular intervals when you’re on your computer.

* Perfect Posture (Android) uses your phone’s sensors to make posture readings based on the angle at which your device is held. It also sends notifications to remind you to adjust your posture.

* The Simply Align app (iOS) also detects poor posture and sends you reminders for posture correction. It also reminds you to do neck stretches at regular intervals.