Susannah Taylor: Don’t become a tech wreck

Last week I caught a glimpse of my 14-year-old daughter on her phone, her head dropped so far forward that the back of her neck was horizontal, her chin almost resting on her chest. It struck me that this was a very unnatural position for so many of us to be stuck in for around four hours a day (according to AppAnnie, which analyses mobile data, our mobile use has surged since Covid, and amounted to 3.5 trillion hours globally in 2020). It got me thinking about the effects of tech on our bodies, especially as we are now spending so much time at home slumped over our screens.

Always check your posture when working at your computer. Image: Getty Images

Award-winning osteopath Anisha Joshi (osteoanisha.com) believes that technology use is warping our bodies. ‘If you were on public transport right now, you would see everyone looking down at their phones; no one is looking straight ahead,’ she says. ‘Adult heads weigh around 5kg to 10kg. For every degree our head lowers, it puts more strain on our neck muscles, which in turn get very tense and tight.’

This can then impinge on our greater occipital nerve, which runs around the base of the skull into our scalp and face, causing extreme headaches. Anisha explains that having our face stuck in our phones can also lead to muscles in the back of the neck becoming tight, resulting in shoulder and back pain.

Then there are computers and laptops. For up to ten hours a day, many of us are hunched over our screens or contorting our bodies at odd angles. At my computer I tend to cross my legs and hook my foot around my calf like a runner bean wraps its way around a pole. Anisha isn’t overly impressed when I tell her this. ‘Sitting with crossed legs, your pelvis gets stuck in a rotation. It’s like asking you to hold a weight on one side for hours on end,’ she says.

‘Texter’s thumb’ is a real condition, which can be a very painful repetitive strain injury caused by overzealous scrolling. The medical term for this is De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Anisha helps patients by increasing the blood flow to the thumb with rotating movements, ice packs to reduce swelling and squeezing a tennis ball gently to help build muscle.

Anisha stresses that if you experience a twinge you must get it looked at. ‘It’s like a warning light on your car dashboard: ignoring it will eventually cause real problems.’ The good news is that tech-induced injuries can be prevented. Here are a few words of advice from the experts…

BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY Movement coach Roger Frampton* (@rogerframpton) suggests videoing yourself at work to spot bad posture. ‘Don’t stay in a fixed position for long as it leads to tightness,’ he says.

ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER ‘Have your screen at eye level,’ says pilates teacher Chloe Hodgson (@chloespilates). ‘Make sure your eyes are forward, the crown of your head is to the ceiling, core is tight, shoulders are down and feet flat on the floor.’

BEAT ‘TECH NECK’ Looking at phones too much can cause the front of your neck to weaken and the back to tighten. This exercise will help, says Chloe: ‘Standing against a wall, with the back of your head pressed into it, pull your neck backwards so you get a double chin. Repeat daily.’

DON’T SOFA SURF ‘Put your bum at the back of a supportive chair to make you sit straight,’ says Anisha. Finally, four words: get off your phone!

Standout for workouts

After a year of hiding on Zoom workouts, I need to up my game in the gym. Top of my list are The Upside’s Himalaya camouflage-print stretch leggings. With a high waist and tie middle, they won’t fall down mid flow. £109, net-a-porter.com.

On a not-so-sour note

Wellness experts have forever shouted about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, a fermented powerhouse said to aid digestion, boost energy levels and minimise bloating. Its only downside is the eye-watering taste. Enter Free Soul’s Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies. Two will deliver one teaspoon of the liquid version – without the face scrunch. £9.99, herfreesoul.com.

*Roger’s new book Stretch has exercises to keep us moving optimally.