Most people think about ergonomics when they’re at a computer in an office. But what about during other activities that are more for relaxation—like gaming, watching a movie or just checking Facebook on your phone? Ergonomics applies to all the things we use our body for during the day—not just when you’re in the office at a desk. Here are some tips for activities that most of us do at some point during the day.
Checking your Phone
You may have heard the term “tech neck” or “text neck.” Well, it’s for real folks. Don’t bend your head over to view your phone or tablet. Instead move the device up into the viewing range OF YOUR EYES. That may mean propping a pillow under your elbows in order to maintain the viewing height for prolonged periods while in a seated position. Or just raising your hand to the level of your face in order to view the screen. And remember, your eyeballs can move! So, you can look down at your phone just by MOVING YOUR EYES and NOT your head.
Think about it this way: See the graphic below? Dr. Ken Hansraj did some pretty cool research to find out exactly how much pressure there is on the human neck when you bend your head forward to look at your phone. Even just a slight forward movement of the neck to view your phone can exponentially increase the amount of pressure on your spine, discs and muscles. At just 30 degrees of forward neck flexion, you get 40lbs of pressure…that’s equivalent to a 5 gallon jug of water! Check out the infographic from DegreeSearch.org to get an idea of just how much pressure you are putting on your neck.
If your favorite chair is not ergonomically positioned in front of your TV, you are most likely craning your neck in order to view the show. Maintaining your neck in a rotated position for prolonged periods can cause joint dysfunction and muscle tension and/or imbalance which can lead to neck pain, headaches and even jaw pain. So, when you sit down tonight to watch your favorite flick, think about moving your furniture around to accommodate better viewing angles.
Think about the posture of gaming exactly like you would if you were in the office. You must have the control/joystick/keyboard at the right height for your arms. You must have the TV/monitor at the right height for your eyes. And finally you must support your spine in an upright posture.
Reading a Book
Whether it’s a real book with paper pages or a digital book on your tablet, don’t bend your head down to view the pages (remember the graphic above!). Raise the pages up to your eyes. That may mean propping a pillow under your elbows in order to maintain the viewing height for prolonged periods while in a seated position. If you are lying down or reclining, perhaps bend your knees and support them with a pillow, then prop the book on another pillow on top of your knees.
If you spend more than about 15-30 minutes checking email, checking Facebook or hunting for that perfect pair of shoes, you need to arrange for proper ergonomics. If you’re using a tablet or phone, it may be as easy as using pillow to prop the device as described in the “Reading a Book” section above. But if you’re using laptop, you should really consider a docking station at a table or desk so that your neck and arms are at the proper level. Check out the Workrite Ergonomics website for details on proper ergonomics. Don’t slouch, get off the couch! You know who you are if this pic looks familiar!
6 ways to combat text neck.
Longus coli strengthening:
Noodle thoracic spine laying:
Pec doorway stretch:
Supine stability ball:
Theraband Lat pull-downs:
Standing theraband row:
Kelli Crosby, PT, COMT
Physical Therapist/Owner – South Location