Smartphone and me
Let's start with a little exercise.
Notice your body position while you're reading this article. Whether you're on the couch, sitting at a desk or laying in bed--what is your posture like right at this moment? Where is your head sitting compared to your shoulders? Are you looking down or up?
Phones, laptops, tablets and even smartwatches--we have so many ways to isolate our minds and just really get lost in what's in front of us; i.e. sliding through some series of funny memes or video of cute animals even though we told ourselves we'd put our devices away about 8 minutes ago. [Guilty!]
You've probably heard of Text Neck which is described as "neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long" (Shoshany, 2015)
How does text neck really affect our body?
At a neutral position, the human head weighs about a dozen pounds. The curvature in our spine is meant to take such load. As we look down further and for longer periods of time, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. This Forward Head Posture (FHP) is seen with the head being in front of the body and the shoulders rounded inwards causing the weight of our head to increase which causes the supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments to work extra. 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 (Bever, 2014).
When you're staring at your phone (or any other device, really) for too long, with forward head posture, the muscles of the upper weakens and the muscles of the chest begin to tighten up causing the shoulders to draw forward. Such changes in physical functions can lead to more complex symptom such as headaches, fatigue, low respiration early arthritic changes and more.
FHP is one of the most common cervical abnormalities that predisposes individuals to pathological conditions, such as headache, neck pain, temporomandibular disorders, vertebral body disorders, alterations in the length and strength of soft- tissue, and scapula and shoulder dyskinesia (Jung et al., 2016)
What do we do about it?
Chiropractic: Prolonged FHP may lead to early arthritic changes of the spine and therefore, correcting the underlying problems of FHP is important than to simply mask its symptoms. Chiropractic adjustment can help restore the joint to it's normal motion, allowing the spine to function ideally.
Exercises: Stretching of the contracted muscles and strengthening of the weak muscles associated with FHP improves the posture of the body allowing the neutral head to sit on the cervical spine without additional weight pulling it down.
Work Ergonomics: Adjust your chair’s height so that your your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when you’re resting your arms on your work surface. Position computer screen so that it’s an arm’s length away from the rest of your body.
Taking a break: Putting down our smartphones, getting up from our desks at work or even saying "No" to "Continue watching..?" during our binge watching mood can make a huge difference. Take some time throughout the day to pause and just notice your posture. If you find yourself slouching over, roll your shoulders back and take a few deep breaths before you get back to your daily routine. Straighten up and hold your head high and watch yourself feeling better already, Charlie Brown!
1. A Modern Spine Ailment: Text Neck Steven Shoshany- DC - https://www.spine-health.com/blog/modern-spine-ailment-text-neck
2. 'Text Neck' Is Becoming an 'epidemic' and Could Wreck Your Spine Lindsey Bever - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.97238d801acf
3. Sang In Jung, Na Kyung Lee, Kyung Woo Kang, Kyoung Kim, Do Youn Lee. (2016). The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4756000/pdf/jpts-28-186.pdf
4. Herman Mun Cheung Lau, PgD, MPhil;1 Thomas Tai Wing Chiu, PhD, MPhty St;1* Tai-Hing Lam, MD2 1 Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China; 2Department of Community Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China