We were into hour three of our latest Netflix binge. The episode ended and my husband and I gave each other a little glance. One more? Of course, or maybe. It’s that pivotal moment when you have to decide how tired you are willing to be the next day in order to justify pushing deep into the midnight hour. And increasingly, how stiff?
Whether you are over-consuming your favourite show, or spend a lot of time working on your tablet, that downward facing position can be really harmful over extended periods of time. As Sunnybrook physiotherapist Jaime Lau puts it, how you’re watching is just as important as what you’re watching. So if you’re consistently MacGyvering your body into weird, unsupported positions in bed or on the couch, it could come back to haunt you.
Lau says the key is to consider your neutral posture. That’s where the natural curve of your spine is supported with the least amount of stress. By breaking that neutral posture and looking down frequently, stress is put on the shoulders, neck and back. And stressed and fatigued muscles are prone to injury with other activities in your life.
So while you pig out on your next favorite show, try to avoid the Netflix neck with these easy tips. The first is to remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a rest for 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. While the end of the commercial break may have seemed like a blessing, it just means more continuous sitting and strain. Take advantage of the pause button and build in breaks for yourself like a short walk, rolling your shoulders or moving your head side to side. And when you come back to your tablet, change your viewing position.
To find a properly supported posture, Lau recommends three really good options that you can view in my video. The key is to move often, and to also make sure that you don’t use your arms to support the tablet. Even though tablets are light, it’s the act of holding that position over a long time that can strain your shoulders. She recommends using a pillow or breakfast table instead.
And of course, if you are experiencing ongoing pain or discomfort, make sure to get professional help. Ignoring those aches is just as futile as ignoring the clock telling you to turn it off and go to bed.