According to a recent article from the Pew Research center, 95% of Americans own a cell phone and 77% of those are smartphones. Many of us would be lost without our smartphones. They perform so many important tasks. But all this technology in a relatively small device comes with some consequences. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on how phone use impacts posture.
While recently waiting in line at the post office, I was surprised to look up and see ads depicting models bent over their smartphones. If there was ever a picture in an anatomy book of poor posture, that would be it! Most of us are certainly guilty of doing this sometimes but don't have neck pain (at least not yet). So, what's the big deal? Even if it's only for a few moments at a time, all that time spent with the chin tilted down towards the chest adds up to cumulative stress on the cervical spine.
As we tilt our heads further forward, the pressure on the cervical spine increases exponentially. In other words your head gets heavier as you start tilting your head down (see chart below taken from Hansraj, Surgical Technology International). Our muscles, ligaments and discs are not designed to withstand that amount of stress and strain. When sitting or standing in good postural alignment, our heads balanced on top of our necks, the head weighs between 10-12 pounds. According to Hansraj’s work, with 15 degrees of tilt, that pressure is increased to 27 pounds, and at 60 degrees is equal to 60 pounds of pressure.
In addition, a separate study has shown that individuals who use smartphones for more than 4 hours per day demonstrate postural changes including forward head posture and rounded shoulders compared to controls. The cumulative effects of these postural changes can leave us more vulnerable to developing conditions like neck pain, headaches, and shoulder pain among others.
So what can be done to reduce the risk? Change how you interact with your smartphone (the same could be said for tablets). Instead of tilting your chin down towards your chest try one of these options:
1 - hold your phone closer to eye level
2 - use voice command to text or input data into the phone (emails, appointments, etc.)
3 - lay on your back and hold the phone at eye level
4 - cut back on smartphone use!
Most of us are resilient enough to withstand stress and strain to our musculoskeletal system for a period of time before starting to experience pain. This is often the case with conditions linked to poor postural alignment. Making the effort now to change daily habits will help reduce your risk of injury down the road.
Having neck or upper back pain? Contact us for help!