Looking down or slouching for long periods of time — such as while on a cell phone — can not only cause chronic pain in the back, neck and knees, but it can lead to more serious health issues like circulation problems, heartburn and digestive issues if left unchecked. However, a new national survey by Orlando Health suggests that too few Americans are concerned with these health effects of bad posture.

“It’s not just when you’re scrolling on your phone, but any time you put your body in a less-than-optimal position, whether that’s reading a book, working at a desk or lounging on the couch,” Nathaniel Melendez, an exercise physiologist at Orlando Health’s National Training Center, says in a media release from Orlando Health.

“People don’t realize the strain they’re putting on their body when it is not aligned correctly, or just how far corrective exercises and daily adjustments can go toward improving pain and postural issues.”

In the survey, people were about their level of concern regarding potential health consequences of mobile device use, such as eye strain and carpal tunnel. Only 47% responded that they were concerned about poor posture and its impact on their health.

Melendez notes that, as a trainer, it’s something he can spot right away.

“I see a lot of people compensating for poor posture with short steps, rounded shoulders, walking with their head and neck down,” he adds, in the release.

Being even slightly misaligned can put a lot of strain on the body. In fact, for every inch your head moves in front of your body, 10 pounds of pressure is added to your shoulders.

“If, for example, your head is four inches in front of your body when you’re looking down at your phone, that’s like having a child sitting on your shoulders that whole time,” Melendez shares.

Most of the issues caused by poor posture are reversible with some simple changes, he states.

“Just doing strength training will not help your posture or the pain it’s causing,” Melendez says, the release continues. “I work with people specifically on strengthening their core and doing some corrective postural exercises. We also do a lot of functional training exercises, which mimic daily life.”

According to Dr Lushantha Gunasekera, these types of exercises have helped manage the pain he was experiencing from being on his feet all day and leaning over to examine patients.

“I had pain in my back and neck on my right side, and I realized that’s the side I always lean to when checking a patient or entering information into the computer during an exam,” Gunasekera says.

He began working with Melendez, who helped him become more aware of his posture, not just in the gym, but also throughout his day.

“When I find myself reverting back to old habits, I think about sitting or standing straight and pulling my shoulders back,” Gunasekera adds. “Discussing what I was doing incorrectly and working on my mobility and core has really helped, and the pain I had has been completely eliminated.”

Besides avoiding looking down at mobile devices for extended periods of time, Melendez says, those who work at a desk or spend a lot of time sitting should raise their screens to eye height, sit with both feet planted on the floor, and take frequent breaks to get up and move around.

[Source(s): Orlando Health, EurekAlert]