Adults have been complaining about endless zoom calls for months now, and with distance learning in full swing, kids are finding themselves in the same predicament. Sitting for extended periods in makeshift workspaces and staring at a screen all day has left children across the DMV feeling the emotional AND physical strains. So how much is too much, and what are the signs we should watch for that something isn’t right? Dr. Colin Haines of the Virginia Spine Institute shares his Symptoms Checklist and a guide to keep our kids and ourselves healthy.
Keep your devices at eye level
Looking down at a screen is a recipe for neck pain, and if left unchecked, it can lead to other symptoms. An easy and inexpensive fix is to stack some books or a cardboard box – both great ways to raise the viewing height of your screen or tablet. Pillows can help promote good posture if your child is using a chair that might be too big for them.
Have proper low back support Long days in front of a device are challenging on the lower back – especially when you don’t have the right equipment. Children often have a tendency to slouch or sit in awkward positions. Lumbar support is key. Try a simple rolled up towel as an affordable and quick fix, or look into a more formal lumbar support for a more permanent fix.
Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground
Maintaining both feet on the floor will support the spine while seated. Consider a step stool, or a sturdy box for extra support.
Beware of nerve damage Many of us (including our kids) use tablets but no keyboard, which can cause nerve pain from the hands up to the neck and shoulders. Use a separate wireless keyboard and mouse at the right height where forearms and hands are level and straight. Huge plus if the keyboard and mouse fit your child’s hands!
Take breaks and sleep!
Stress can cause headaches for adults and children alike, and as the pandemic wears on us, the stress takes a toll on our health. Take frequent breaks, walk around the house, and stretch to alleviate any pain caused from tension. Digital eye strain also results from too much time looking at a screen. Symptoms include dry, itchy eyes and blurry vision, even a “burning sensation.” The American Association of Ophthalmology recommends frequent blinking and following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to let the eyes reset, and while you’re at it, take a quick stretch break. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep when it comes to good health – maintain consistent bedtime routines. That can help keep everyone feeling their best. If your child is yawning or seems disengaged and tired during the day, take a break, get outside – fresh air and vitamin D are magic!
If you find yourself struggling due to your at-home setup and the above fixes do not work magic on your pain, schedule a consultation with one of our spine specialists.
Dr. Colin Haines is a board certified spine surgeon and the Director of Research at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Haines performed the world’s first combined endoscopic and robot-guided spine surgery. His patient success has earned him a national feature on The Today Show and WebMD, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years.. Learn more about Dr. Haines.