Peter Scordilis, DC, CCSP, CSCS, a certified chiropractic sports physician and a partner in Scordilis Chiropractic in Clifton, New Jersey. He is an avid triathlete and certified triathlete coach.
Unless you’ve been hiding under your office desk, you’ve undoubtedly heard that laboring over your laptop (or desktop) can wreck your posture. But constantly checking your phone or tablet can lead to a different set of posture problems—which need different solutions.
Here’s the position…
Recognize it? Sports medicine science even has a name for the postural muscle imbalance it often causes—upper crossed syndrome. The name refers to a phenomenon in which tightness in muscles in the back and sides of the neck and chest crosses with weakness in the deep-neck muscles and upper arm muscles. You may find that you can’t turn your head fully from side to side—your range of motion is reduced. “These imbalances in strength and flexibility can lead to pain and even breathing problems because of the restricted position of the rib cage,” says Peter Scordilis, DC, a chiropractic sports medicine physician in Clifton, New Jersey, who treats patients with this condition.
He often prescribes three easy moves that you can do at home. They’re designed to help lengthen the specific muscles that get shortened, and strengthen those that get weakened when you’re spending too much time hunched over your phone.
Try to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine. Do at least three sets of 15 repetitions of each (set the alarm on your computer or phone as a reminder to take a movement break), and you’ll go a long way toward re-patterning your body to do the right thing.
What it does: Stretches the muscles in the back of your neck and strengthens the muscles in the front of your neck (deep cervical flexors).
How to do it…
What it does: Loosens and lengthens the muscles in the chest.
How to do it…
What it does: Strengthens upper back and shoulder muscles to counter forward hunch.
How to do it…
While Dr. Scordilis finds that these exercises can really help, he emphasizes that they’re not miracle cures. To undo this common syndrome, you also need to pay attention to how you stand—and text—all day long. “It doesn’t matter how much you stretch at the gym,” he says. “If you’re bent over your desk or phone for eight hours a day, your chest and neck muscles are going to tighten up. Flexibility is a function of what you do throughout the day.”
So pay attention to your posture. Notice when you’re hunched forward, and train yourself to sit or stand up straight instead. Move around frequently. Instead of staying hunched over your computer or your phone, let your body move and stretch frequently throughout the day. Doing these exercises daily will help you experience the kind of healthy posture that you’ll want to carry throughout your day. For more tips, see Bottom Line’s “Good Posture Guide.”