Standing Tall in the Era of Covid-19

How to use technology efficiently and avoid bad habits


Tami Bulmash

3 years ago | 8 min read

According to the Pew Research Center, it is estimated there are over 5 billion people who own mobile phones. With most parts of the world being advised to stay home during this era of uncertainty, there are only so many board games to be played and books to be read before you start itching for your beloved devices.

However, with little else to do than peruse a screen, it’s more crucial than ever to give more thought to your body while using electronics.

The widespread use of mobile phones has materialized into varying degrees of poor posture for over a decade. In 2008, Dr. Dean Fishman coined the phrase ‘text neck’ after examining a 17-year old patient who complained of head and neck pain.

He observed the youth as she unknowingly pulled her head down and slumped over her phone while texting.

A surge of finger and wrist pain has been attributed to excessive texting on handheld devices. Some use the term, ‘text claw’ to describe the pain felt in the wrists and hands after texting on mobile phones for long periods of time.

Initially causing soreness and cramping, these aches could potentially lead to tendonitis and carpel tunnel.

The all too familiar phenomenon seen across the globe of curving the back or slouching forward while using handheld devices has been dubbed as ‘iPosture’. A survey conducted in the United Kingdom, found 84 percent of young adults ages 18–24 said they’ve suffered back pain, believing this to be caused by iPosture from using mobile devices.

With the frequency and duration of phone usage across the globe, the implications of poor posture influenced by exorbitant technology use is concerning — and today more than ever with limited options to pass the time.

What is more, today’s mobile phone users haven’t been adequately informed about the ramifications of excessive usage on the body or ways to protect their stature while engaging with these devices.

Body education

How many of you remember taking a body education class in school? You might not remember such a lesson because other than a health or physical education class, you probably didn’t learn how to use your body efficiently at school.

While body education may seem pretty straightforward, its premise is to teach you how your body is designed to work rather than just the anatomy. You may know how to sit, stand, walk, jump, and run. But the question is, how do you carry out each activity? Who actually taught you how to do it?

When you were an infant, you learned how to roll over, hold your head up, crawl, and then walk. But after that, who taught you how to navigate your body through a plethora of stimuli you weren’t prepared to respond to?

As the body is introduced to a single stimulus, it can process the information and respond. When it is bombarded with multiple triggers, it reacts with tension. Stimulus overload strains the body and pushes it out of alignment.

For example, before there were mobile phones, there were just telephones. Those ancient devices were simply plugged into a phone jack in the wall. You couldn’t move more than a few feet while talking. Even if you spoke for hours on a telephone, you would eventually put it down.

Modern phones operate quite differently. They are designed to keep you on them. There are multiple triggers at play: texting, talking, reading, browsing, listening to music, watching videos, etc. Reacting to just a few of those activities simultaneously could easily put the body in overdrive.

The aim of present day technology is to keep you engaged. However, the body has a hard time keeping up with all of the choices. Reacting to so much stimuli fatigues the body and leads to collapse, or iPosture.

Therefore, it is difficult to stay upright for long periods of time while using a handheld device. It is also hard to take a break when there is much activity luring you into your phone. Hence the conundrum.

If there were an opportunity to introduce body education while using the mobile phone, the foundation would be to pause before switching gears. Focus on one phone function at a time. Then take a break.

This would create space, allowing the body to make conscious choices rather than unknowingly reacting to the next trigger.

Use the body as it was designed

Rounding the back towards a device is not a cognizant or intentional reaction. It is merely a response to the habit of being overstimulated. What is more, the body isn’t meant to contort itself in such a manner.

While the spine can bend, its primary function isn’t to bend over repeatedly throughout the day. The spine is not a joint.

The body is designed to bend at the joints. Most people who use electronic devices bring their heads down and bend their spine by rounding their backs towards the device.

Alternatively, it would be more efficient to move forward from the hip joints and keep the back upright in the process.

Overusing the spine and lower back muscles and under-using other muscles whose function is to hold the torso upright — like the core muscles, perpetuates body contortion.

But lack of body education and contortion aren’t the only culprits. We simply aren’t required to be as physically active as we used to be.

Western culture is more sedentary

Sedentary lifestyle has become a habitual way of life for most people living in the US — and now even more so than ever. Ten years ago, studies depicted American adults and children spending over half of their waking hours sitting down.

What can be said about the amount of time being sedentary in the era of the Coronavirus?

Recent studies suggesting 19 year olds have the same physical activity levels as 6o year olds. In contrast to previous generations who spent their childhood outdoors, walking or riding their bikes around the neighborhood, today’s adolescents talk to all of their friends — at once — on different social media platforms, behind a screen.

Adults also can’t resist the allure of electronic amenities. Online shopping, socializing and working can all be done from home without even having to get out of the chair.

Whether sedentary activities, technology saturated culture, or a pandemic are to blame, the departure from tall, upright posture, is one of the defining traits of the 21st century.

Excessive pressure on the spine

The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when the ears are over the shoulders. For every inch the head is tilted forward, the pressure on the spine doubles. As you look at the smartphone in your lap, the neck is holding what feels like like 20 or 30 pounds.

This is corroborated by a study from spine surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Hansraj whose research suggests that the weight seen by the spine increases when flexing the neck at varying degrees.

Namely, tilting the head forward at 15 degrees puts 27 lbs of pressure on the spine. At 30 degrees, the spine carries 40 lbs of weight, 49 lbs at 40 degrees and 60 lbs at 60 degrees.

By repeatedly adding weight (and pressure) to the spine throughout the day through the use handheld devices, the cervical spine is stressed leading to wear, tear and deterioration.

Loosen your grip

The essence of using the body efficaciously is through awareness. While technology has been an exciting and invaluable part of this era, there are more mindful ways to engage with it.

For starters, how much pressure and tension do you apply to the devices you hold and carry? Chances are, you could easily loosen your grip and still use your handheld devices efficiently. Paying attention to the degree with which you engage with your phone is key.

How far is your body leaning towards your device? Can you choose not to move towards it? Are you pounding your fingers on the screen or keyboard as you type? Can you soften your touch and grip on the phone?

These are just a few questions you can ask yourself to help offset any undesired habits you may have accrued with immoderate mobile phone usage.

The way you hold your body is just as telling as how you hold your devices. If your body is tense, that same tension will be transferred to the way you hold a device.

Use your body in a different way

What would happen if you placed the phone in the palms of your hands and let it rest there? Then gently pick up one hand to text while the other is resting under the phone. You can free your hands of needless tension by not gripping the phone on both sides.

Being mindful of how to use less tension in activity can make all the difference between straining muscles and utilizing them in the way they were designed to be used.

The next time you walk, pay attention to your gait. Can you hear a thud in your ears each time you take a step? Imagine how much less effort it would take to tiptoe instead. Apply that thinking to your walk and see if you notice your walk become lighter.

Tiptoeing might require you to use different muscles to move your body more effectively. This is a physical activity guided though mindfulness. The result is consciously working the body in movement, rather than unknowingly collapsing into a heavy gait.

Technology is not the enemy

Technology has enabled engagement and connection all over the world in ways that weren’t previously possible. It has enhanced innovation, communication and longevity.

It has also been an invaluable asset in trying to stay informed and busy during this pandemic. There are plenty of reasons to embrace technology.

With that being said, being mindful of how much, how often and to what extent you engage with technology is key to living a balanced lifestyle. Think about body habits as a process.

Poor posture doesn’t happen overnight. It is the accumulation of lifelong habits. It cannot be changed by simply ‘sitting up straight’ or ignoring body signals. The last thing anyone wants is to come out with worse posture after confinement brought forth by Covid-19.

Standing tall in an era of uncharted territory is possible if you pay attention and recognize harmful habits that interfere with your body’s optimal functioning. The next time you want to reach for your phone, pause first.

Check yourself out. Is your head up? Great. Then think ‘up’ and imagine your head is floating up towards the sky, like a bubble. Let your spine follow suit, like a string of tiny bubbles. Your posture will be led upright.

Rather than allow the restrictions brought forth by this pandemic to manifest into your body and well-being, why not use this opportunity to teach yourself new ways of approaching old habits.

Instead of reaching for a device to fill the time, explore the behavior behind how you reach for that device in the first place.

Are you contorting your body towards the device or allowing the device to best serve you? The key to good posture is not what you do to make yourself better, but what you don’t do to make yourself worse.


Created by

Tami Bulmash

I write and teach about the mind-body connection and its relationship to health and well-being.







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