FARIDABAD, October 14 – Exposure to long hours in front of screens, coupled with poor posture and inadequate ergonomics in the workplace, is causing today’s individuals, especially young adults, to be susceptible to spine-related conditions like ‘text-neck syndrome’ where the neck muscles become strained and stiff, causing long-term spinal complexities, according to prominent experts at Amrita Hospital Faridabad.
Studies show that poor posture is the primary cause of neck and back pain in young and mid-age individuals, leading to work loss, hospital visits, and treatment expenses. Over time, it damages spinal discs, causes muscle spasms, and may lead to chronic pain, disc degeneration, and even surgery in severe cases.
While addressing a webinar ahead of World Spine Day (October 16), Dr. Tarun Suri, Head of Spine Surgery at Amrita Hospital Faridabad, stated, “Poor posture has become the most common cause of back and neck pain among our OPD patients. Remarkably, nearly 70% of our OPD patients fall into this category. Poor screen etiquette is also a leading contributor to such pain. People often use their gadgets with their neck bent for prolonged periods, leading to a condition called “text-neck syndrome. Individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 are the most commonly affected by postural back pain. Recently, we have also observed children aged 10-20 years experiencing postural spine pains. Within this age group, poor studying posture, excessive gadget use, and carrying heavy school bags can all be important causes of back pain. In this regard, it’s important to mention that back and neck pain is common among both men and women.”
The leading factors behind bad posture are poor workplace ergonomics, which entail long hours of sitting without proper chair and desk height, putting significant stress on the lower back and neck. Chronic stress can be extremely detrimental to one’s spinal health. Neck, upper back, and shoulder muscles tend to tighten due to stress, which can lead to misalignment and poor posture.
Said Dr. Satyakam Baruah, Senior Consultant, Neurosurgery: “Ignoring posture issues in young adulthood may seem harmless, but the long-term consequences can be severe. From disc degeneration and prolapse, which can potentially lead to nerve or spinal cord compression, to the risk of weakness, paralysis, or even spinal malalignment such as scoliosis and kyphosis, the impact is far-reaching. Prioritizing good posture is not just about appearance; it’s about safeguarding your future health and mobility. Today’s youth must realize that early warning signs should alert them to be more cautious to prevent the serious physical and mental effects of spine-related problems in the long term.”
The early warning signs for neck and back pain or developing chronic pain often come in the form of neck pains, with or without radiating pains in the arm, altered spinal alignment, lower back pain, and morning stiffness in the neck or lower back. However, with proper exercise and practice, these symptoms can be prevented.
In terms of lifestyle habits that working individuals should adopt to reverse or prevent the effects of bad posture, Dr. Suri added, “Looking at a digital device screen with a bent neck is a habit we all need to quit. We should train ourselves to raise the screen to eye level so that the neck is in a neutral position. Holding a cell phone with the device near the ears and tilting the neck for extended periods is also a common bad habit among many people. It is recommended to use the speakerphone or headphones for such conversations. While sitting, the hips and knees should form about a 90-degree angle, with the feet flat on the ground. The back should also be in a neutral position and not hunched over or slouched.”
Dr. Suri advised taking a 60-second break to stretch the back after sitting continuously for 20-30 minutes to release intradiscal pressures and improve circulation in spine tissues and muscles. Stretching exercises for the neck while working on a computer for extended periods, as well as morning exercises, including neck stretches, range of motion exercises, shoulder shrugging exercises, and lower back exercises like yoga, ‘surya-namaskars,’ and ‘bhujangasan,’ are also helpful in maintaining circulation, flexibility, and strength of spine muscles.
It is possible to reverse the effects of poor posture if detected in the early stages when only the muscles and ligaments are affected. However, once disc degeneration starts, it cannot be reversed. Although with due precautions, further degeneration can be slowed or stopped.