Contemplating Friday: Posture (or the tech-induced lack thereof)

My chiropractor prodded my stomach, pulled on my limbs, muttered some incantations, then diagnosed my back issue. Yes, a pulled psoas. And yes, those burpee exercises during cardio-boxing class had a hand in it. But the real culprit?

“Your computer,” she said darkly.

Yes, my innocent-looking desktop was instead a silent Jiu Jitsu-like warrior that had for years been twisting my body into unnatural positions. Now my neck sloped forward, peering at an invisible screen well after I’d quit for the day. My shoulders slouched, locked into my bad sitting form even when standing. My jaw was tight, unable to forget the workday tension. My hips were stiff, my hamstrings weak. My ancestors could run quickly across a vast plain, my chiropractor pointed out, her voice rising in what seemed like indignation. They could bend for hours at a time over campfires, rest on their haunches. She shook her finger at me. I could do none of that. I was a modern woman with a modern body — toned from the gym but useless for much else. It had tweaked itself into the computer-sitting shape like jello adapts to its mold. And, like jello, it now needed a lot of help.

But hold it, I said to my chiropractor. Isn’t my body perfect for today’s world? My lower spine fits nicely into my car bucket seat. I hold a bus pole and surf the Internet on my phone with ease. I can find a food truck with the savvy of my ancestral foragers.

“Your body was designed in a certain way,” she harrumphed. “Would you drive on square wheels?”

I was alarmed. This was bad. If the computer was indeed hurting me, it meant I had not only let an assailant into my home, I had paid a lot of money for it.

It’s not just the computer. Necks are crimped by phones. Eyes are damaged by small screens. There’s even a new medical term for tablet injuries, “iPad Hand,” where thumbs are strained and calloused by the edges of the devices that dig into them and index fingers grow numb from repeated swipes on the screen. Technology may make our life easier but it’s also hurting us, literally.

I certainly didn’t want iPad hand. I had worked too hard to learn the Vulcan salutation. But would I have to chuck all my technology and revert to pad and pencil, which certainly held its own dangers (paper cuts, pencil point eye injuries, eraser nibbling indigestion)? My chiropractor assured me she wasn’t a luddite.

“Just get up every half hour from the sitting position,” she said.

“That’s not good posture, that’s procrastination,” I cried. We finally settled on every two hours. She showed me how to stand (buttocks below ribcage, shoulders rolled back slightly, head in line with body, chin at 90 degrees) andI walked out a much better-designed woman* than before.

*The Author gamely began this article with an in-line wrist and neutral spine. However, it should be noted that by the end this had devolved into what is called the Turkey-Vulture-Over-Carcass posture.

Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Caroline Paul is the author of "East Wind, Rain" and "Fighting Fire," and she co-wrote "Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology" with her partner Wendy MacNaughton. MacNaughton's illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Juxtapoz, and Print Magazine. "Lost Cat" was inspired by the curious disappearances of their beloved Tibia.
Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Tags: Downtime,Tech Culture