How to Avoid Pain While Using Tech Devices

New Years is approaching and the time to make resolutions is looming. Integrate 360 PT recommends limiting screen time and/or maximizing proper positioning when using your devices!

Screen time is simply unavoidable these days, but the amount of time we are spending on our devices is causing a lot of physical pain. Here are some tips to let you stay functional with your tech while minimizing physical impact.

1) Start with a good foundation. It is easiest to use devices for any length of time while sitting. Be sure that you are sitting on a firm, but comfortable surface with your knees at hip height or slightly higher. Place your feet firmly on the floor or on a footrest if needed (for vertically challenged people like me!). Feel your sit bones on the seat and let your lower back round onto the backrest behind you. This positioning will make sure your pelvis is in a good, neutral position (ie not tipped forward or backward) and will let your spine build up from there and be in a good position as well. 

2) Put the screen in front of your eyes. If you’re working on a computer, make the top edge of the screen level with your eyes. This is also true if you’re using a large screened device like a tablet. If you’re using a smaller screened item like a phone place the center of your screen in front of your eyes. This helps you to keep your head upright and balanced over your thorax and avoid the forward head posture than can stir up neck, jaw, and shoulder pain as well as headaches.

3) Support your arms. Since you cannot hold that gadget in front of your eyes with just your arm muscles alone, prop your arms on something. It could be the desk or table in front of you, a pillow on your lap, etc. Just be careful to not “get lazy” and begin leaning on your elbows. This will cause your shoulders to hunch forward and end up in that same forward head position mentioned above. 

4) Don’t stress your eyes. If you have been prescribed a pair of reading or computer glasses, please use them! If you haven’t been to the optometrist for awhile and notice eye pain and/or strain when you read (especially on a screen) after some time, please go for your check up or at the very least pick up a pair of over the counter reading glasses you can get at any pharmacy. When we try to read without the proper prescription to help us out, we’ll over-stress our occular muscles which can trigger a headache. Once our occular muscles have been fatigued, we’ll start moving our heads slightly in order to try to help sharpen the image quality. This, yet again, leads to poor posture and pain. 
   Another thing to be aware of is that our eyes will eventually fatigue when used at the same distance for a prolonged amount of time (ie doing computer work without taking a break). Once this happens, our neurological system will essentially lock our musculoskeletal system into a pattern. It’s a bit like autopilot. Our brains have established that we won’t be using some muscles in our body and shut them down, while overly facilitating and using others. This will eventually lead to posture break down, muscle fatigue, and pain. This can be combatted by taking visual breaks via the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes try to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps to freshen our ocular and musculoskeletal systems and keep things fresh. An even better approach to this rule is to move around - go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or just stand up and wiggle a bit. 

Written on December 26, 2018 by Lesley Callaham, MPT, PRC