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Bad Back: A Sign of Too Much Surfing?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 8 Feb 2016 | comments*Discuss
Back Pain Lower Back Shoulders Neck

A recent survey confirmed what most of us already know from experience. Sitting hunched over a desk at a computer for long hours leads to back pain. The pain can be in the lower back or in the middle of the shoulders, or can affect the neck, with headaches a common side effect. Students, office workers and people who do a lot of social networking are all at risk.

A questionnaire sent out to 1000 women in the UK revealed that middle aged women are the newest victims of internet-associated back pain. The 35-50 age group are frequent users of social networking sites such as facebook, and often spend long hours shopping online for anything from the weekly food shop to buying jewellery on ebay.

Internet Use and Poor Posture

The cause of internet related back pain is nothing to do with the computer, of course. It is the posture that people adopt while they are surfing. At work, people tend to have regular breaks, needing to attend meetings, move from office to office, take coffee breaks and perhaps get out of the office at lunchtime. During leisure activities on the internet, the focus of the user tends to be so strong that hours can go by without them realising that they have been hunched over the keyboard, peering at the screen.

Adopting a position in which the head is pushed forward with your ears in front of your shoulders is a common mistake. As we get older, some of the text on webpages can be too small to read, and the natural response is to move your head nearer to the screen, rather than to move the screen nearer to you. Chronic neck pain and discomfort in the shoulders is a common problem.

The lower back is more at risk if you are a ‘percher’, tending to sit forward in your seat and tilting your back forwards. This puts pressure on the coccyx region, leading to muscle stiffness and spasms as the back tries to prevent damage to the more important structures.

Lifestyle Choices

One of the findings of the recent survey was the some women were so badly affected by their back pain that they had decreased their social interactions. Some found that their movement was affected so much by their back pain that they were reluctant to go out. This suggests that the tendency to concentrate on using the internet for social networking is rather counterproductive. Spending less time in front of the computer will help relieve back and shoulder pain and increase mobility; it will also free up time to actually get out and be more active and sociable.

It is tempting to get carried away when surfing the internet and to consider that shopping online is the easy option. For convenience, there is no problem with buying some things like this but much of the enjoyment of browsing, shopping with friends and going out for a coffee and chat, doesn’t happen. Like many things, surfing on the internet should be done in some sort of moderation during your spare time.

Work and Internet Related Back Pain

For people who work on a computer during their working day, and really have to spend long hours doing nothing but internet-based research or word processing, getting the right posture is essential. Employers are usually very willing to provide a more supportive office chair and to encourage a break every hour to stretch and walk around for 5 minutes to avoid employees calling in sick when back pain becomes unbearable. When you are out of work, being as active as possible and doing exercises specifically aimed at strengthening the muscles in the back, abdomen, legs and buttocks that support a healthy back can also help.

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I have lost about 60mm. In height and suffer with a pain in my stomach area not so much in my back. My doctor says this is because my inwards are being compressed and thereis no cure. Can you suggest any help because at times it is very painful.
Flip - 8-Feb-16 @ 10:16 PM
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