Sunday, January 17, 2016
It was a bitter cold evening as I stepped from the icy platform and into the Dart carriage that was thankfully steeped in warmth. The train was relatively empty as I began my journey against the rush-hour flow. For into town I was bound, to meet my childhood ex-ballet class pal to go see the intriguing Bolshoi Babylon.
It was a short journey so I nestled into my seat that was pleasantly perched over a heater, and buried my head into my phone; busying myself in the world of emails, social media and Candy Crush. As one does, to shorten one's journey.
Before I knew it I was almost in town and as I raised my head I noticed how full the carriage had suddenly, as it seemed to me, become. With all seats taken it was standing room only, filled with mostly males, of whom some were teenagers, and a sprinkling of women such as myself. And all to a man - teenager or woman - with head buried down into their phones. Much as I myself had been mere moments earlier.
And I tutted to myself, as I silently admonished us all for our behaviour.
Well not exactly for our behaviour, per se. More the posture we had all naturally assumed, in order to pass the travel time with our beloved devices. And books too, as there were some paperback readers among my traveling companions that wintry evening.
Now, being one of the eldest commuters in that Dart carriage that evening I don't wish to come across as a middle-aged, crotchety, harbinger of neck and shoulder doom, with these words of mine.
No, it's more that I wish to raise awareness - from my own painful, personal experience - of the dangers that the posture we assume with our books and devices can pose. Maybe not today, but possibly further down the line.
And having recently paid for physiotherapy sessions I should know better than to engage with my phone, in the manner that I had on that cold winter's evening.
From my paid sessions I know that the correct (and corrective) posture to assume when engaging with:
1) My Phone: Is to stand up straight with my body, head to toe, gently pressed against a wall
and with my phone out in front of me at eye-level.
2) My Book in Bed: I need to sit up straight propped up with pillows at my back, with
elbows propped up on cushions in front and my book, again, out in front of me at eye-level.
3) My Laptop: I need to get the laptop off my lap and onto my dining room table. My feet
need to be flat on the floor, using phone books to keep my knees at the correct angle. I was
also advised to get a plug-in keyboard - so that the laptop will be the correct distance
away, allowing my head to be in correct alignment.
4) My Knitting: Is to try and keep my elbows up - cushions again - so that my work is close
enough to eye-level and to take a break every 30 minutes.
5) My Sleep: Is to avoid sleeping on my tummy. Which is easier said than done. To an
6) My Handbags: (This is my personal advice to myself) I really need to carry these across
my body - or to at least be conscious of not raising my shoulders, in order to keep them
'on board', as it were.
From these physiotherapy sessions I also know the exercises that I should be regular engaging in. All in standing position with feet slightly apart, head up and shoulders down. Such as:
7) A gentle shoulder roll.... and 'let go'. Repeated many times during the day. In order to disengage my upper trapezius muscle - which after many years of incorrect posture - is doing the work that my lower trapezius should be doing.
8) Head Turns: Gently to the right, as far as is comfortable, and hold for a count of three.
Back to centre, gentle shoulder roll and repeat to the left. Repeat by five.
9) Head Forward and Back: As for head turns with a gentle shoulder roll after each forward and back movement.
10) Head to Shoulder: Head down towards shoulder, only as far as is comfortable, right and left as above.
Or at least this is all the advice given to me by my Physiotherapist. If you have similar issues you should perhaps seek personal instructions from your Physiotherapist? And I have been trying to comply, really, I have.
But none of these positions seem very comfortable do they? And I can tell you that this post wasn't typed from my dining room table!
So I have tried to adapt. When I remember. For example: while I don't always stand with my back against the wall to use my phone I do try to be more aware of my head positioning when I do use it. And my return Dart journey that night saw me sat at a window seat, with elbow propped up on ledge allowing my phone to be held closer to eye-level than it had earlier been. I also try to keep my book at eye-level while lying down on my side to read in bed. In fairness, how else is an insomniac going to get some sleep! And I try to remember to take regular breaks from all these activities and do some of my gentle exercises. When I remember.
That Dart ride was a bit of a wake up call for me. A gentle reminder that I was slipping back into bad postural habits. And of course there is nothing quite like sitting in comfortable, high back movie-theatre seats, watching beautiful Ballerinas and male Ballet dancers perform to make you sit up a little straighter, is there?!
I guess we all just need to be more aware of our posture when reading and using any of our technological devices. As to be more aware may bring helpful postural corrections.
Which I guess is the whole point of my post.
So, the next time you pick up your phone or book, or sit at your laptop remember these words and......
Heads UP ;)