A new survey has revealed that technology is having a widespread effect on our health, with half the population suffering from 'tech neck'.
The survey by Endeavour College of Natural Health, which has introduced a new course to train health practitioners to treat the growing problem, found that 50 per cent of Australians suffer soreness around the neck, back and shoulders from technology use.
With almost 60 per cent of those aged 18-44 saying they suffer from 'tech neck', the survey found that Millennials and Gen Xers were most at risk of damaging their health from technology use.
Anthony Turri, a Preventative Health Specialist who is heading up the new Remedial Massage course at Endeavour College, said improper and overuse of technology was causing health problems which could have long lasting effects, especially for the youngest Australians who were practically born with a smartphone in their hand.
"Here we have evidence that widespread technology use is having an impact on our health and with the majority of the population owning a smartphone and working on a computer, it might just be the tip of the iceberg. We don't know the full extent that technology use will have in the long run and yet we're grabbing hold of technology with both hands from a very young age," Anthony said.
"I'm seeing patients as young as 12 presenting with the start of reversible postural adaptation, or in layman's terms a hunched back, because kids are getting into bad habits when they use computers, phones and tablets.
"While there are many benefits to technology, staring at an iPad in the wrong way for a lengthy period of time can cause long lasting posture problems. Posture isn't just about standing straight – it affects breath, and breathing is vital for energy, sleep, and overall health."
As well as seeing a spike in children presenting with posture problems, Anthony said it was one of the biggest complaints he received from adult patients so diagnosing and treating 'tech neck' was a big part of his new Remedial Massage course, which launched at Endeavour College's Sydney and Adelaide campuses this year.
According to the government's Job Outlook site, massage therapist jobs are tipped to grow by 20 per cent from 2018-2023 with around 15,000 job openings over the five year period.
"We're all working longer hours in more sedentary jobs and using technology more than ever. This way of life is not conducive to good physical health and as more Australians become more in tune with their body and take preventative steps to look after their bodies, remedial massage is only going to become more in demand," Anthony said.
"The good news is that 'tech neck' can be treated with remedial massage and strengthening exercises, and poor posture can be prevented by getting into good habits from a young age. Our infatuation with technology doesn't have to lead to a generation of hunchbacks."
Other key findings of the survey include:
• More than half of Australian women (55pc) said they suffered from tech neck with just under half of the male population (45pc) reporting the same physical effects
• Older Australians were less affected – 44 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 31 per cent of over-65s said they suffered from technology use
• ACT residents were the least affected (27 per cent) and those in the Northern Territory were the worst (67 per cent).
• New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia were all in line with the average (around 50pc)
Here are Anthony's top tips to ease 'tech neck':
Understand good posture.
Look at images of good sitting, sleeping, standing and working postures. Ask someone to take a photo of you in those positions, ideally when you're not expecting it. Compare your posture to ideal posture and make corrections as needed.
Make posture a priority.
Most people don't focus enough on their posture. Ask friends and family to remind you to move at regular intervals and try setting time alerts every half hour on devices to force children to take a break and remind adults to check their posture.
Make time to move.
The human body is designed to move, not hold prolonged static positions. If you spend most of your day sitting for work or study, it's important to take regular breaks and lift your arms above your head as often as possible. Make it fun by dancing the YMCA or do it slowly and stretch as far as you can for each letter, doing "C" both ways to get balance in the stretches.
Seek professional help.
If you're already feeling the effects of 'tech neck' ie neck strain, shoulder tightness, postural fatigue, head hanging forward and upper back pain, it might be time for a remedial massage. Regular massage is the first step towards treating 'tech neck'.
Ergonomics are key.
Make sure workstations and anywhere kids study or do homework are set up ergonomically and correctly. Screens should be at eye level. A head rest can also help with neck support.
Limit screen time.
Where possible, cut down social media usage to minutes, rather than hours per day. It's possible to be social without media. Instead of playing games on apps, play games with people. We all need to do more physical activity.
Change sleeping habits.
If you sleep on your side, tuck your chin in and if you sleep on your back, reduce the size and numbers of your pillows.
Stretch it out.
The best way to ease aches and pains associated with 'tech neck' is to stretch your neck in ways you wouldn't normally move it. Try rotating your neck and head fully to the left and right, and tilting your head and neck fully to the left and right. The movements should be gentle and pain free. Hold each position at the end for at least 30 seconds. For another good neck stretch, stand with your back against the wall and imagine you have a rope attached to the top of your head. Pull your head backwards and upwards, making the best double chin you can. Imagine the back of your neck flattening out. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 10 times. Do these exercises at least a couple of times a day.
For more information visit www.endeavour.edu.au
Photo Ben Ashmole