How to deal with ‘texting neck’, ‘handbag shoulder’ and more

When convenience and fashion cause pain, there are ways of addressing it

October 15, 2018 03:07 pm | Updated 03:07 pm IST

woman looking at her phone by window with hand rubbing her neck.

woman looking at her phone by window with hand rubbing her neck.

This is the age of smart devices and high fashion. We walk around cradling the digital version of the world in our palms, looking dapper in heels and tight-fitting shoes that defy gravity and physics. This digital world never sleeps, constantly demanding our attention, to a well-established point of addiction. Footwear bows to the dictates of fashion, mechanics of foot and motion be damned. All this comes at a price that affects not just our pockets but also our biomechanics, posture, and mobility. We now have another source of pain in our lives, literally and figuratively. Awareness is the first step in recognizing and addressing issues that impact our functioning and mobility in the long run.

Texting neck

Smartphones have taken over our lives. But they’ve only made us less smart about looking after our postural muscles, especially the ones in the neck. Constantly looking down into a hand-held screen or jutting the neck out while using laptops is putting great pressure on our spines. Given the number of hours spent on these devices, you have the perfect recipe for acute and chronic neck, shoulder, back, elbow, wrist, and thumb pains!

Address it: Position the screen in such a way that you can read comfortably at eye level, maintaining back of neck and spinal alignment. Set up your work desk correctly (height of table, screen and seating distance) and give it preference of use over the hand-held device. To release neck and back stress, push the chin gently back with the fingers and hold for a few seconds. Push the back of your head into your palms (clasped behind your head) and release. Gently press the side of your face into the palm (arm held up at shoulder level) and release. Do this for both sides. Repeat these exercises a few times during the day.

Handbag shoulder

This creates muscular imbalances between sides of the body, especially shoulder, neck and back, and can lead to chronic pain.

Address it: Prefer sling bags. Wear the strap/sling diagonally across the body, frequently changing the shoulder you take it around. Adjust the strap length according to your height and the weight of the bag. It shouldn’t rest too high or low. Likewise, if holding laptops and other items in the hand, shift weight between hands. The heavier the load, the more important this is. Try carrying your laptop on the back, especially if it’s a heavy version.· Fashion foot Keeping the feet in such an elevated position for long durations, especially on pencil heels, can lead to chronic tightness in many muscles of the lower limbs, apart from generating joint stresses, back and hip pains. Men aren’t immune from uncomfortable office wear either. Hard-soled and narrow pointed at toes shoes are a common source of aches and pains in the feet and legs.

· Address it: Select the type of heels wisely. Keep a pair of occasion-friendly comfortable shoes as backup, to give the legs and feet a needed break. Restrict your time in heels to the extent possible. For all shoes, be mindful of the shape. It should be suited to your foot type (shape and build). There should be enough room for the toes to rest naturally. Pay attention to the sole and fabric/leather. It shouldn’t be too hard. Wear the right size. Shoes don’t usually expand with wear.

Address the stress

Stress is a known trigger for muscular spasms, aches and pains. It impacts breathing and functioning of structures, leading to poor posture. Allowed to fester, it can create painful knots in muscles further causing deep or chronic pain.

Address it: Practise mindfulness and coping techniques like pranayama and yoga. Pursue activities that make you happy while keeping you active. Take breaks, switch off periodically, hit the outdoors whenever you can to rejuvenate. Draw boundaries with work and people, and honor them zealously to do yourself a favor.

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