In, Up, Back, Down - Steps to Better Posture with Your Phone

By Brian Wesolowski

If you’re reading this post on your cell phone, take a moment to check your posture. Are you shoulders slumped? Is your head pointed downward? If you answered yes, then you, like so many of us, suffer from tech-induced poor posture. Unfortunately, not only is this making you less graceful, it’s also likely having an impact on those around you. Yes, poor posture and the feelings that often come from it can be contagious.

Moving well through life takes conscience effort and working on your physical grace and posture is a big part of that. Think about people who you find graceful. They likely appear to move with ease and perhaps even seem to glide effortlessly across a room. That’s really hard to do with your neck craned down looking at your phone.

Dr. Sherry McAllister, the Executive Vice President of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, who is also a practicing chiropractor in San Jose, warns that there are potentially serious negative effects from prolonged use of technology with poor posture.

“The actual curve of the neck is so critically important because that curve is like a shock absorber,” she said. As you’re walking, “when you heel strike, and when the nice beautiful curve is there, it can absorb the stress.”

Dr. McAllister cited a study on what happens when you put a cell phone in someone’s hands. “It was an absolute 100% movement of the head going from a neutral spine, which is chin up, to dropping that head forward. What happens when we drop our head forward is we lose that natural curve in the neck, which unfortunately will unbalance the body.”

Thankfully, posture is a journey and there are steps we can take to improve it. When we’re using cell phones, Dr. McAllister suggests we all start thinking “In, Up, Back, Down.” Let’s go through the steps.

  • In - Bring your elbows into your side, not out far and wide. This will stop you from dropping your shoulders too much.

  • Up - Lift your chin up. Notice how your arms also also start to go up.

  • Back & Down - Now pull your shoulders back and down a bit.

How does that feel? Where is your phone now and what position is your neck in? Your spine is probably much closer to that optimal curve that Dr. McAllister mentioned. Now take a look at the illustration below to be certain you have it right. Making this the norm is not a one day thing, and like so many elements of grace, it will take thoughtful practice.

“Practice makes permanent. If you’re permanently picking up your cell phone wrong, you’re permanently wrong. We need to start breaking that trend and practicing a more mindful approach,” Dr. McAllister said. A mindful approach can improve our balance and add elegance to our bearing, and like every aspect of graceful living, it directly benefits our health. In, up, back, down: These are easy steps to smooth out some of the negative impacts of technology on our posture and gracefulness.

Dr. McAllister will be a guest on our forthcoming Gracefully podcast. She shares more great tips for improved posture and spine health, as well as thoughts on how preventative chiropractic care can help. Check back for our first episode later this month.  


Dr. Sherry McAllister, Executive Vice President, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Dr. Sherry McAllister, Executive Vice President, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress