I’m convinced that every generation looks at the next upcoming generation with a sense of fear and despair. And yet, the next generation always seems to pull through. Nevertheless, I’ve been noticing for some time now how kids nowadays seem to be slouching more than ever. I attribute this to smart phones and computers. Kids spend so much more time with their heads down slumped over the computer or crouched over a smart phone. I remember one Thanksgiving glancing around the table and seeing that at any given time an average of three of the kids had their smart phones out and were hunched over them. We could philosophize about how this changes their worldview from one in which they are engaged with the world around them to one in which they are myopically focused on minutiae. But philosophical ramifications aside, let’s focus on the physical effects.
I call the slumped over, forward head posture, “The Posture of the 21st Century”. Kids and adults alike are spending so much more time hunched over computers, smart phones and steering wheels that it has begun to make permanent changes in our postures. This is bad for several reasons. As the head and shoulders rock forward, the head is no longer balanced over the shoulders. To compensate, the muscles at the back of the neck have to tighten up to support the head. This tends to cause more muscle tension in that area. This is why people often complain that they hold their tension there. It’s a case of emotional stress piling on top of physical stress.
Headaches are often linked to this issue as well. If you can picture it, as your head goes forward it is also tilting back slightly relative to the neck just below it. This jams that joint and alters the mechanics in that area causing headaches and neck pain.
Also as the head goes forward, it also tends to straighten out the spine in the neck area. This has the unfortunate effect of putting more pressure on the nerves and spinal cord in that area. These delicate nerves control many of the vital functions of the body. Compromising these nerves can have repercussions on one’s health beyond simple mechanical pain. One study found that elderly people with forward head posture had an over 10 year decreased life expectancy compared to others their age with good posture.
The solution is, not surprisingly, to get adjusted in order to realign and mobilize fixated joints. Then, it is also important to stretch out those muscles that have been shortened over time due to the bad posture. An easy stretch is to go to a doorway, put your forearms on either side of the door jam and lean forward and stretch out your chest muscles. Hold it for about 30 seconds. Do that at least a couple times a day.
Another excellent stretch, one of my favorites, is to stretch the front of your neck by bringing your head straight back. By this I don’t mean extend your head back like you are looking up at the sky, rather, pull your head straight back like you try to give yourself a double chin. That will stretch the deep neck flexors in front that have become shortened. Hold that stretch for 5 seconds then relax. Repeat 10 times. Do a set of 10 a couple of times a day.
Keeping this area in good alignment by seeing a chiropractor and by performing home stretches may mean the difference between being a hunched over crotchety old person and one who is still straight and healthy into old age. Even if we can’t do anything about the upcoming generation, we can do our best to keep our generation going strong.