The amount of time we spend on the computer is more than ever and growing everyday. Checking email, Facebook, Twitter, playing games, texting, even reading is a large part of how we spend our day and can contribute to many problems including jaw pain. The question you should ask yourselfÂ ‘how is your computer posture?. Are you getting “sucked in” to the computer screen? (over time you get closer to the screen)
We often start our computer use with correct posture. Sitting up straight with the low back supported. The head placed over the shoulders with both feel on the floor. This is generally the best posture to have while using the computer. The problem happens when we forget to stay sitting up straight and start leaning into the screen. This is what I call getting “sucked in” to the screen. The head leans forward, the nose moves up to look at the screen, the back curves forward, and your the shoulders roll forward. This posture may be causing not only neck pain and muscle tension headaches, you may also be hurting your TMJ (temporomandibular joint) as well.
The temporomandibular joint is the joint of the jaw. You have two on both sides of your head. This joint allows you to use your moth for many things like eating and speaking. If the joint is not working together in unison on both sides you can end up with a disorder called TMJ. The joint may click, lock, cause pain, or do all of these things. Because this joint is used so much on a daily basis it can be hard to rest it enough to allow it to heal. This means that you need to look at your life and identify what may be causing the problem then stop it!
The Computer Culprit
Reading about how to help your TMJ online you will find lots of good information regarding eating soft food, stopping chewing gum, and not opening your mouth too wide. You may or may not find any suggestions regarding the forward head posture and getting sucked into your computer or other electronic devices. You see as we lean our head forward it places unnatural stresses on the TMJ. You may even lean your head on your jaw while you lean forward causing even more pressure on the joint. Over time these micro-trauma can cause serious changes on how the jaw moves. Moreover over time the head will accommodate to this forward posture and you can have permanent changes in your neck causing your head to remain in the forward position.
Evaluate your Posture
Sit in your normal position and have someone else take a picture from the side. Look closely at how your ear is positioned with your shoulder. If the ear falls in front of the shoulder then you have forward head posture. You can also stand with your feet shoulder width apart against a wall .Make sure your shoulders touch the wall and try to remain as natural as possible. Is the back of your head touching the wall as your stand? If it is not then your head is too forward.
What You Can Do
Fixing the problem of having forward head posture is not easy, but you can do a few simple things to prevent too much stress on the TMJ while you sit at the computer, stare at the TV, or even drive the car.
- Make sure you are looking at a screen that is level with your eyes
- Keep your back against the chair at all times
- Don’t lean foreword
- Don’t rest your chin on your hand
- Tuck your chin a little to bring the jaw and TMJ back
- Set a posture alarm to go off every 20 minutes to remind you to check your head