There has been much in the press lately about modern day technology’s toll on posture. In all walks of life, from children to working professionals to retirees- smartphones, smartwatches, ipads and so forth are ubiquitous in 2018 and will be for the foreseeable future. But the physical attachment we have to these devices is literally pulling our heads down. Looking down at a device causes one’s neck to lean forward unnaturally, holding the considerably heavy head in an awkward position for long periods of time and inevitably results in slouching. Shoulders roll forward and the torso collapses. Poor posture is known to cause many ill effects such as neck and back pain, headaches, poor circulation, increased stress/cortisol levels and allegedly contributes to depression. Maintaining good posture allows a person to breathe deeply, filling the lungs with oxygen, which thereby decreases stress levels and leads to more positive emotions. Slouching does the opposite.
As an acupuncturist, I have been noticing more and more issues in my patients involving neck pain and even numbness down the arms as well as arthritis in the hands that all seem to coincide (sometimes quite obviously) with excessive smartphone use. An antidote to some of these symptoms is either limiting gadget time or, more practically, elevating the technology to a level that doesn’t require bending the head downward. Regular stretching and scheduled breaks from usage are also helpful so as not to prolong unhealthy posture. It takes practice, discipline and mindfulness- and sometimes a reminder alarm!
It’s not just that bending the neck for long periods in the day can cause muscle strain and the loss of its natural curvature (kyphosis). It’s not just that slouching can cramp your intestines and cause digestive problems. It’s not just that poor posture is lousy for your mental health and confidence level. Poor posture affects qi (pronounced “chee”). A rudimentary definition of qi is vital force or vital energy and it flows through all living things. The healthy circulation of qi is essential to life and to good health. Chinese medicine theory describes that qi courses throughout the meridian channel system and connects with all of the tissues and organs. As I explain to my patients, an impediment to the flow of qi (which is also contained in your blood) causes symptoms. If the flow of qi is impeded due to poor posture, the circulation of qi is disrupted and may not only lead to the abovementioned symptoms, but many other ailments as well. A cascade of energetic imbalances may develop over time from chronic poor posture. The free and healthy circulation of qi throughout one’s body is essential to mental and physical well being. So next time you reach for your iphone or ipad (if you aren’t reading this article on your device!), be mindful of how you interact with it; take care to correct your posture and implement measures to ensure you’ll stick with these healthier practices. The gadgets will not go away, but the healthy flow of qi and the curvature of your spine will if you don’t take care!