Whether you’re sitting in a café, on a bus or walking down the street, chances are most people will have their heads down bent over their phones. While writing an email, sending a text or uploading an image might seem essential – looking down at your phone could be doing irreparable damage to your neck.
This problem, often termed Text Neck, is becoming increasingly common especially among young people. A number of my Pilates clients have complained of upper back pain and it turns out they were spending big chunks of their day on their phones and iPads.
Research by IDC shows that 79 per cent of people aged between 18 and 44 have their phones with them all the time, with only two hours of their waking day away from them.
Also, US surgeon, Dr Kenneth Hansraj (2014.), says that although our heads weigh between 10lb and 12lb, as we angle them down to look at our phones for example, the effective weight on our necks increases. At a 15 degree angle it is about 27lbs rising to 60lbs at 60 degrees.
First and foremost you can prevent it by looking at your phone, iPad or laptop at eye level as much as possible, so you don’t have to bend your head forward. If you work in an office, take regular screen breaks from your PC and request a desk assessment.
Next, you can rehabilitate your body and set about strengthening your core. You need strong core muscles – the abdominal and lower back muscles – to support your upper body, including your neck and head. Pilates exercises will help to strengthen your core and lower back and in addition, they also help to strengthen the neck.
Breast stroke prep
This exercise is used for strengthening and improving the flexibility of your spine.
Lie on your front, pelvis and spine neutral. Legs extended and open hip-distance apart, toes gently pointed. Arms bent; hands by shoulders; palms down; shoulders stabilized by drawing shoulder blades slightly together and down towards pelvis.
To prepare, inhale and gently draw low abdominals in and up from the mat (I find imagining scorching hot lava under your belly button helps).
Exhale – keep scapulae engaged and keep slight pressure in forearms as you lengthen and extend your upper back. Allow ribs to open but keep bottom rib in contact with mat.
Inhale – stay, reach sternum away from toes.
Exhale – lengthen down onto mat.
Complete 5-8 reps, then finish with a shell stretch.
The cat position relaxes and stretches your body, specifically your back. The basic cat stretch, is one of the gentlest ways to stretch your back.
Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Elbows should not be locked.
Exhale – press into your hands and up into your back as you gently rock your pelvis/hips under as if you were tucking your tail between your legs like a dog. Notice also how the back flexes like a cat arching its back. Shift about 60-70% of your weight back towards your heels with a small percentage of the weight on your hands.
Inhale – keep abdominals engaged and keep head and shoulders relaxed.
Exhale – release your tailbone, lift your chest and lengthen your spine from the crown of your head to your tailbones, keeping your stomach muscles tight.
Notes: Move slowly in and out of this cat stretch exercise as you flex and extend your spine by rocking your hips and pelvis.
Complete 3-5 reps.
Lie on your stomach, feet slightly turned out, a little wider than your hips. With your hip bones and pubic bones resting on the mat, place your nose and forehead down, and reach your arms out in front of you with your palms facing down. Imagine you’re making a small X with your body.
Inhale – roll your shoulders back, and feel them melt down away from your ears. Exhale – pull your belly button up to your spine, and extend upper spine and hips, reaching arms and legs off mat.
Inhale – for 5 counts. Reach one arm and opposite leg higher while lowering other arm and leg off mat.
Exhale – for 5 counts. Continue reciprocal swimming action.
Complete 5-8 reps.
To finish… Inhale – lengthen arms and legs to halt motion. Exhale – lower upper body, arms and legs to mat.
Then take a shell stretch.
If you suffer from back pain, neck pain or just want to develop your core stability then come to one of my Pilates classes. I run classes in Brighton and Hove. Go to https:/www.bn1pilates.com for information.