Public transport posture or Screen Slump.
Have you ever noticed how people sit on public transport or should I say slump? Some commuters appear as though they don't even have muscles to hold them up as they pour into their seat like liquid.
Whether on the bus, train or ferry you see people every day slouched over their smart phones and tablets. This adds even more stress to the over worked and over stretched muscles and joints of the neck, upper back, lower back and hips.
I have often wondered why we take the approach of holding these devices so far away from the area of the body that we need to view them, the eyes.
There was an episode of the animated TV show Futurama that had Bender the robot character turn into a human. In his robot form he had a zoom feature in his eyes. When converted to being a human he wonders how you zoom. The answer was bring it closer to the eyes. This is our zoom or at least the less painful and problematic zoom. Most people choose to use their neck and upper back to collapse and crane over these devices to get a closer look and to use their phone or tablet. This then places all of those extra stresses on the areas mentioned previously.
So what really happens when you sit slumped over a phone or tablet?
Well, firstly it looks terrible. To a muscle therapist or anyone who works in this industry poor posture is a red flag and it stands out like, well you know.…
It suggests that you have absolutely no awareness or care for the way you hold your body. It is the equivalent of not showering or personal grooming. These also are telling about how you care for your personal self.
From a muscular perspective the front of the neck will tighten up, mainly the sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCM). These are the big tendon like muscles at the side/front of the neck that most people don't realise are muscles. These muscles are notorious for causing headaches via the trigger points around the side of the skull where the muscles attach (Mastoid Process).
The pectoralis muscles will also tighten up as the shoulders and chest are slumped forward.
And the poor old thumbs. Never in history have the thumbs copped such a beating. First it was the space bar, then the good old mobile phone and now the smart phone.
What can you do about it?
There are lots of things you can do to reverse this posture and make it a thing of the past.
The first step is awareness. If you are unaware that you have poor posture then you will never be able to make a change. When travelling on public transport or any time you are using a smart phone or tablet for that matter, check in on how you are sitting and also how you are holding the device. Bring the phone closer to your face so you song have to slouch over it.
Stretching the front of the neck - look down to the floor, place your fingers just under the collar bones
pressing gently into the muscles, hold a downward pressure as you slowly look up to the ceiling stretching out the front of the neck. When you are at full stretch push your chin forward while keeping your mouth closed.
Chin Tucks - I know no one wants to make a double chin but this is one time that a double chin is good for your health.
Standing with your back against a wall so your head is touching the wall at all times. Keep your head looking straight ahead. Place one finger on your chin and then imagine pushing this finger straight backwards.
Try not to let your head leave the wall as the tendancy is to look down and not tuck the chin back as in the picture.
Chest Stretching- This is one stretch everyone should do. In our forward shoulders world we need to spend a little bit of every day stretching backward. Find a doorway, place arms out to the side at shoulder height with the elbows bent and touching the door frame. Now turn your body to the opposite side. You should feel a stretch at the front of the chest and into the arm (pectoralis muscle). Doing one side at a time gives a better stretch but if you are strapped for time then you can do both sides at the same time. Place both arm up and walk through doorway. You should feel both sides stretching at the same time.
How to hold your phone or tablet
If you cross the arm you are not using and then rest the arm you are holding the phone with on the crossed arm you can then relax your phone arm. See the picture below. You can then relax your posture which will mean less strain to the neck and shoulders
So there you have it. No more excuses to slouch on public transport whilst using your phone or tablet. See if you can spot any people like this when you next commute and feel free to pass this blog onto them :)