How many hours a day do you think you spend looking down at your phone, hand devices, or tablet?
You’re not alone! It’s not uncommon to walk down the street or sit in a restaurant where everyone is head down looking at their smartphone. “Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over looking at their phones. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines…and high-schoolers might be the worst.
They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position” according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, in the National Library of Medicine.
Why should this be a concern? The human head weighs about 12 pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds!
In 2009, Dr. Fishman, a chiropractor in Florida, coined the term “Text Neck” after noticing similarities the stress and strain this forward bend in the neck can lead to when looking at X-rays of the spine. The term was created to explain the repeated stress injury to the body caused by excessive texting and overuse of handheld electronic devices. According to Dr. Fishman, the frequent forward flexion causes changes in the cervical spine, curve, supporting ligaments, tendons, and musculature, as well as the bony segments, commonly causing postural change.
Common complaints associated are pain felt in the neck, shoulder, back, arm, fingers, hands, wrists and elbows, as well as headaches and numbness and tingling of the upper extremities. This forward head posture can also cause muscle strain, rounded shoulders, pinched nerves, herniated disks and the poor posture can cause other problems such as respiratory and reduce lung capacity. And with children and adolescents increasing their use of mobile devices, these symptoms are presenting themselves in the younger generation.
Prevention comes with being mindful when using technology. Trying to use your cell phone at eye level as much as possible, taking breaks from technology, and stretching/exercising the neck and shoulders periodically to relieve and ease muscles. Treatments such as Bowen Therapy and CranioSacral Therapy to help improve posture and release tight muscle are helpful when the aches and pains are on the rise. There are even apps created to make you aware when your phone is at a poor posture angle.
By Leslie Bendig, Stillpoint Bodyworks