Sign Up to Save
Tech Neck and Other Ways Our Sitting Habits Cause Pain
In our modern society, we spend large portions of the day sitting down, staring at a computer or phone screen. While this is often required for work or school, poor posture and sitting habits combined with infrequent breaks, can lead to chronic pain.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the ways your sitting habits may be causing you pain and give you some advice on how to fix it.
“Tech neck” is a slang term that refers to neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and soreness caused by stress placed on your muscles while looking at phones, laptops, and tablets. This is a growing problem as people, especially Americans, are spending more time with screens than ever.
A survey of 2,000 Americans concluded that the average adult spends more than 6,259 hours per year looking at devices. This includes up to four and a half hours per day looking at a television, almost five hours staring at laptops, more than three hours on gaming devices, and around four and a half hours looking at smartphones. Overall, the average American adult will spend around 382,652 hours looking at screens during their lifetime.
With so much time spent looking at screens, it’s vital to protect our neck and shoulder’s health, since looking down at screens so often can place them under severe strain. When looking down at a device, the muscles in the back of your neck have to work harder to hold the weight of your head. This leads to the muscles becoming overworked, tired, and sore. Tech neck can cause headaches, stiff neck, spasms, pain, and even numbness or tingling caused by pinched nerves.
The best way to combat tech neck is to sit in an ergonomic chair that helps you maintain proper posture. Ideally, you want a chair that tilts back 25 to 30 degrees and has proper lumbar support that matches the natural curve of your spine. This position helps to support your neck and spine and places as little strain on your muscles as possible. Also, it helps to take frequent breaks from screens, taking time to stretch and walk around at regular intervals.
It’s important not to ignore the pain caused by tech neck. While it may begin as simple muscle pain or soreness, over time, increased pressure on the discs in your spine can lead to bulging, rupturing, or pinched nerves. These things may require surgical correction.
Poor Posture Leads To Pain
When we spend too long sitting at a computer, odds are our posture begins to loosen, and we slip into positions that may feel more comfortable in the moment, but are actually hurting us in the long term. Sitting with poor posture can lead to chronic pain in many different parts of the body, including the neck, back, shoulders, and abdomen.
Poor posture can look different for everyone. For some, it can be slouching or sitting slumped on your office chair or couch, lying on your stomach while working on your laptop or reading, or sitting slumped in bed while watching television. For others, it can be walking in a hunched manner or performing tasks such as lifting heavy things or exercising without proper support or form.
There are a variety of ways sitting with poor posture can cause pain. The first has to do with how we sit when we work for long hours. Prolonged hunching can cause your back, core, and abdominal muscles to become strained and painful, reducing their blood supply, which slowly develops stiffness and weakness in the lower back and trunk.
Sitting in an unsupported position, such as in an office chair with no lumbar support, places a small forward bend in the spine. Over time, this small bend places too much stress on lower spinal discs, which can cause a herniation.
If you notice pain specifically in your shoulders, your poor posture may be causing a condition called shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement is the painful pinching of your shoulder muscles against the surrounding bone due to strain or repetitive shoulder movement. Fixing your posture may help correct or reverse shoulder impingement, but in severe cases, it may require surgery.
The best way to avoid this type of pain is to fix your posture. When working, make sure you’re sitting in a chair that properly supports your back and spine. Invest in a desk at the proper height, which for most people is about elbow-level. You should be able to type on your keyboard with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Additionally, your feet should be flat on the ground. Make sure you’re not hunched forward or slouching, as this places extra strain on the muscles.
Dead Butt Syndrome
While the name may sound funny, Dead Butt Syndrome, also called DBS, is a serious issue many American adults face. The clinical term for DBS is gluteus medius tendinopathy, or gluteal amnesia. DBS occurs when you spend long hours every day sitting without getting up frequently to stand, walk, or otherwise move around. This causes the gluteal muscles to essentially “forget” their main purpose: supporting the pelvis and keeping your body in proper alignment.
In mild cases, symptoms of DBS can include numbness or light soreness. Walking around and light stretching will usually help alleviate this. However, in more serious cases, pain and stiffness can occur all over the body. You may feel pain in one or both hips, the lower back, and knees. Pain may shoot down the leg, mimicking the feeling of sciatica. You may also experience a loss of strength in your glutes of hip flexors.
Even more seriously, DBS can lead to inflammation of the hip bursa, a fluid-filled sac that helps to ease movement within the hip joint. This may cause pain and swelling in the hip area. You may also experience pain in the lower legs caused by problems with balance and gait due to DBS symptoms.
The best way to relieve symptoms of DBS, or to avoid them worsening, is to get up and move regularly during the workday. Writing a sticky note reminder and placing it on your computer, or setting an hourly alarm on your cell phone, are both good ways to remind yourself to get up and move. Simply walking around your house or office once every 30 minutes to an hour is a great start.
Frequent stretching can also help alleviate the symptoms of DBS. Stretching the hamstrings, hip flexors, and glute muscles at the end of the day will help increase blood flow and relieve pain. If you find you can’t avoid sitting for long hours each day, incorporating exercise that targets the gluteal region, such as running and weight lifting, may help ward of DBS symptoms.
Blood Flow Issues
Sitting for long hours without getting up to move can also result in blood flow issues. This is caused by blood pooling in your legs and not being allowed to flow back up into the upper body. In minor cases, this can lead to varicose veins, or spider veins. While not usually painful in themselves, some people find them to be irritating. In more serious cases, they can lead to blood clots in the legs, which can be extremely painful and dangerous.
Sitting for long hours can also cause a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis, also known as DVT. This occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside the body. Deep vein blood clots typically form in the thigh or lower leg.
Symptoms of DVT in the legs include swelling in the foot or ankle, typically only on one side, cramping pain on the affected leg, severe, unexplained pain in the foot or ankle, or an area of the skin that feels warmer than the surrounding area. The skin over the affected area also might turn pale, or a reddish or blue color. However, in some cases, people with DVT don’t experience any symptoms and won’t even know they have a clot until they experience a pulmonary embolism, where the blood clot travels to the lungs. This is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical care.
The best way to prevent DVT is to move around frequently. You can also perform special exercises to help increase blood flow and stimulate the lower legs. Exercises like knee pulls, ankle circles, and foot pumps are extremely helpful. In more severe cases, compression stockings may also be helpful.
For better or worse, we live in a society with unprecedented access to technology. This causes us to spend long hours each day sitting and staring at our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Unfortunately, certain sitting habits can end up causing pain, especially in the neck, back, shoulders, and legs. By remembering to sit with good posture and getting up to move frequently, you can help avoid pain caused by long hours in front of screens.
One of the best ways to avoid pain is to invest in an ergonomic chair that encourages proper posture and the flow of blood and oxygen. To learn about the all33 Backstrong and all the benefits it can provide, visit us online here.