Scrolling your feeds endlessly can have a serious impact on your posture and alignment. "Since 2008 or so, I've seen a lot of heads and shoulders hunched forward," says Kim Fielding, a former dancer who created a Pilates class specifically to counteract the effects of technology. "Some dancers will overcompensate for this, leading to splayed rib cages and too much curvature in the lower spine."
Medical pros are now calling this set of symptoms "tech neck" or "text neck," and they can ultimately lead to neck herniations, rotator cuff injuries, and even foot and ankle problems. Here's how to keep your tech from hurting your technique.
Your Own Devices
Fielding suggests thinking of your collar bone as a dowel rolling up and backwards to avoid a slumped, downward posture, without letting your rib cage splay open. "You can also hold your phone a foot in front of your face and use the opposite hand to text," Fielding says, "though sometimes people feel awkward doing that." If that's you, hold your phone in one hand instead, with your upper arm pulled in to your side to support the arm holding the phone. "This shifts the effort to your bicep, instead of your shoulders and neck," Fielding says.
When you're using a laptop at a desk or table, stack larger books underneath the computer until it's up closer to your eye level. This hack also works if you're spending computer time at a standing desk, though Fielding recommends a balance of standing and sitting time for maximum body benefits.
On the Mat
Foam rollers are a smartphone user's best friend. Spend some QT carefully rolling out your neck, upper and mid-back, and sides (the area under your armpits) to soothe tech-related aches and tightness. "Notice where there's tension and think about how particular tech habits might be contributing to that discomfort," Fielding says. Classic cross-training, like Pilates and yoga, will also help open your chest and release your tensed-up shoulders and neck. Fielding notes that while rolling out and stretching can help, it's also vital to work on proper alignment and strengthen these areas.
Mindfulness is key when it comes to technology. It can be tempting to scroll through Instagram while stretching, but, according to Fielding, you're much better off simply focusing on the splits: "It's comfortable to distract yourself with your phone, but you need your hands free so you can properly support and align your neck and spine in the stretch." That goes for any stretch or exercise—you should focus completely on what you're doing.
And don't forget to take plenty of breaks from your screens! "It definitely helps to fix your phone posture, but also consider limiting your screen time," Fielding says.
A version of this story appeared in the November 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Technological Difficulties."