How Looking Down at your Smart Phone is Ruining your Spine

How Looking Down at your Smart Phone is Ruining your Spine

February 19, 2015

neck-pain-and-textingSmart phones may be smart, but they are weighing us down. Our heads are drooping to check our mobile devices, and we are paying the price with additional back pain.

Bending your neck just 15° from a neutral position raises the amount of force on your cervical spine by 17 pounds, indicates research by spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj. The study, featured as the “Editor’s Choice” in peer-reviewed journal Surgical Technology International’s 25th anniversary issue, shows that the posture with which we use mobile technology (cell phones, tablets, and e-readers) can place an extraordinary amount of stress on the body.

Computer modeling of poor posture

The study looks at various degrees of neck bend. In so doing, it establishes the specific amount of pressure that we experience as our spines adjust to personal devices that are in our hands or on tables in front of us. Here are the findings, as presented in a report by Alexis Kleinman of the Huffington Post:

· 0° tilt – 10-12 pounds

· 15° tilt – 27 pounds

· 30° tilt – 40 pounds

· 45° tilt – 45 pounds

· 60° tilt – 60 pounds.

Hansraj built a data-driven graphical simulation of the skeleton. He then looked at how pressure changed with the neck bent forward at those different angles.

“It’s a very sophisticated assessment of the stresses that are borne by the neck when the head is in various positions,” Hansraj explains.

The parameters of this particular spinal study are a bit oversimplistic, as Hansraj admits. The reason is that people don’t just tilt their heads forward when they check their technology but also to the right and left, and the side-to-side stress is not included in this assessment.

How to prevent neck & back pain

Hansraj doesn’t think that we all need to stop using our phones. Instead, he advises that “[people] pay specific attention to where their head is in space.” In other words, you don’t want to allow your neck to curve at all. Although it may feel awkward at first, the best choice for your health is to bring the device up to meet your forward gaze.

Hansraj additionally mentions that another major culprit in the development of poor posture is the office job. To improve your alignment and keep your body strong when working at a desk, stretch frequently, get up and move around on a regular basis, and reorganize your workspace to adhere with ergonomic principles.

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