Are you texting yourself into back pain?

We were designed to stand upright and be mobile!

In today’s world however, many of us spend our days with our heads in flexion while slumped over to stare at the tiny screen of a smartphone or tablet.

On average, we now spend 2 to 4 hours a day with our necks unnaturally flexed in order to answer emails or texts or play games. Being high tech now puts us in this position between 700 to 1,400 hours a year.

The average adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when we are upright or in a neutral position. However, gravitational pull (basic physics) tells us that the head becomes heavier to your neck the more forward of your shoulders your neck is (ie when you flex your neck). It may even be adding 30-50 pounds of head weight to your neck as far as your neck is concerned.

Dr. Kenneth Hansraj of New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine was involved in a study that identified that bending your head to a 60 degree angle to get a better look at your screen can put 60 pounds’ worth of pressure on your cervical spine, the portion of the spine above the shoulders.

“The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees,” write the authors in the study. “Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgeries.”

Only tilting your head 15 degrees into flexion was found to put 27 pounds of pressure on your spine; a 30 degree neck tilt could equal 40 pounds of pressure; a 45 degree tilt added the force of 49 pounds!

It’s no secret that correct posture is better for your back.

“Good posture is defined as ears aligned with the shoulders and the ‘angel wings,’ or the shoulder blades, retracted.”

So stand tall, sit tall – it looks better and you will be healthier for it!

Other reasons to think good posture:

  • People who have poor posture often have worse physical and emotional health.
  • Having the head in a tilted forward position and the shoulders dropping forward in a rounded position has been linked to headaches.
  • Constant slouching is likely to cause a lot of chronic pain.

“While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over,” the authors write in their study.

Ask our doctors for easy home exercises you can do to counterbalance the effect of using your smart phone/tablet!