We’ll that body position you are in now may be the cause of current and/or future orthopedic problems, especially in your neck.
We spend a lot of time each day with our devices. Cell phones, tablets, computers etc. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds spends an average of seven and a half hours using “entertainment media” every day.
But it’s not just kids. The average amount of data used on a smartphone tripled from 2010 to 2011, according to Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. And each tablet generates 3.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone.
A recent study published in Surgical Technology International’s 25th edition says texting may be hurting your neck. Conducted by New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj, the study found that bending your head to look at your mobile device held in your hands can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck.
Hansraj’s study includes illustrations of what happens when mobile users bend their heads at at 15, 30, 45 and 90 degrees to look at their devices. He advises users be cognizant of their bodies.
“We recommend that people should continue to enjoy their smart devices, but that they pay specific attention to where their head is in space,” Hansraj told the Huffington Post. “You want to be careful that your head is straight up with you’re using a smart device.”
The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position — when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.
All that extra pressure puts a strain on your spine and can pull it out of alignment. Dr. Tom DiAngelis, former president of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Private Practice Section, compared it to bending your finger back all the way and holding it there for an hour.
“As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore, it gets inflamed,” DiAngelis said. “The real question … is ‘What are the long term effects going to be?’
In physical therapy we label this problem as “forward head posture”. Over time it leads to muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves. It can also reverse the natural curve of your neck.
The other problem, less often recognized is the lack of oxygen taken in our bodies through this forward head posture.
Try to take a deep breath in a slumped position. Now sit up straight and try again. Experts say slouching can reduce the capacity of your lungs by as much as 30%!
Here are a few tips to avoid problems when using our devices:
Keep your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your ears directly over them so your head isn’t tilted forward. Use a docking station and wrist guards to support the weight of a mobile device. Buy a headset.
Take frequent breaks while using any mobile device or desktop computer. About every 20 minutes, stand up, roll your shoulders and neck or go for a short walk to improve blood flow.