How “Smart” Phones Warp Your Spine

Mobile users are spending more and more time on their smartphone, a study shows. The time spent on mobile phones has increased to 4 hours each day, which loosely translates to 1,400 hours each year, spent staring down on the devices.

The few hours might not seem as drastic as you think, but as the weeks go by and months turn into years, the results start to manifest. Today we look at one of the phenomena of our times – pain from spending too much time on the phone.


How Many Texts Do You Send Each Day?

Take time and ask yourself how many text messages you send and receive each day and you will get an idea of what we are talking about. Studies show that a large number of the population sends more than 100 messages each day while reading more than double the number.

Certainly, this amounts to a forward head posture the better part of the day, which leads to an unnatural posture.


The Neck and Back – Yes, It Has Come to That

There are a lot of things that could hurt your neck and back, but no one ever dreamt that over using the phone could be one of them. Studies show that 8 out of 10 people have their phones with them most of the time, letting go only for 2 hours each day. This can lead to a lot of drooping for weeks, months and ultimately the rest of the life.


Your Head – It’s Position Matters

Your head, which basically weighs the same size as an average bowling bowl, needs to sit directly on your shoulders and the upper back. When it is the case, the upper shoulder and the neck can support the weight of the head the right way.

On the other hand, if you carry the head in a forward-bending posture, for example, bending over when texting, you cause stress and strain on the upper back, the neck and the shoulders. Let us see this in terms of kilograms.

Typically, your head weighs between 5 and 6 kilograms when it is in the right position. Your neck and shoulders are designed in such a way that the weight of the head is distributed evenly so that you don’t feel this weight. The normal curve of the spine has a slight curve that absorbs the slight shift in weight as you move around.

The problem of using your phone is that in order to use it, you have to bend your neck forward, at times even your upper part of the back. This position reverses the backward curve of the spine. As you bend the head forward more and more, the level of strain on the neck and back increases, which also increases the weight of the head.

Bending the head at a 15-degree angle increases the weight of the head to 12 kgs. Increase the angle to 30 degrees and the weight increases to 18 kgs. At 60 degrees, this weight can be as much as 27 kgs. This is akin to having an 8-year old kid dangling from the neck unsupported for several hours each day.

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Then What?

As the weight pulls down on the neck, the muscles of the neck and the upper back work extra hard to keep the head from drooping down completely. As these muscles are overworked, they start tensing up. If the neck muscles stay in this position for several hours each day, they adapt to the position. They become rigid and make it hard to get back to their normal posture.

Once the muscles adapt to the poor posture, the bone structures tend to suffer. Your cervical spine usually has a natural inward arch that flattens when under stress. This leads to damage to the discs and joints of the spine, which need proper positioning for health.

Many adults have just started the practice of recent but think about the kids that look at a future of daily texts. They stand to spend their entire lifetime texting. They risk permanent damage to their necks, which can lead to lifelong discomfort as well.


Are You Suffering From This Condition?

The problem usually comes with several symptoms related to the strain you place on your neck muscles. The major symptom is a sharp pain in the upper part of the back. Your shoulders also feel rigid and can experience muscle spasms. When the strain is too much you can experience pinched nerves, which lead to neurological symptoms. A headache that doesn’t go away is also common. Failure to handle the problem early can cause arthritis.

As the weight increases and the condition become common, your cervical discs become the target. The weight lies on the discs, leading to degenerative disc conditions.


Analyzing Your Posture

Once you notice these symptoms, you need to find out whether your spine is rightly aligned or not. A computerized postural exam is a good way to find out how serious the condition is. A chiropractor can confirm the diagnosis and can recommend treatment.


What Can Help?

Before you even decide to see an expert, you need to change your phone usage behaviour. Try and take regular breaks or use an app that helps you maintain the perfect posture. For those who have been in a poor posture for long, prevention might not be the cure – you need treatment.

The chiropractor recommends treatment depending on the severity of the condition. At times traction is necessary to retrain the posture. The chiropractor can prescribe stretches and exercises to help strengthen the area and increase the range of motion. The chiropractor then undertakes periodic scans to determine if the treatment options are working or not.

One of the best strategies to reduce the pain and stiffness is to go for a massage. Massaging the neck helps relieve the tension that has built up over time. On top of relieving the tension, the massage also encourages relaxation. The firm pressure helps correct poor posture by helping the muscles to return to their proper positions.

You should also improve your overall body posture. Spend less time on your mobile devices and sitting in front of computers. When taking a break from texting, make sure you lift up your head to relax the muscles. Always try to put the head back into the normal position to reverse the adopted arch. Try to put the smartphone closer to the eyes to reduce the degree of bending forward. Tell this to your kids as well.

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If you or your kids have never had your spine checked now is the right time to do so. The chiropractor assesses the spine for postural problems and helps remedy them to prevent early damage. The earlier you identify the spinal issues the better the process of correction is. Keep up regular checkups with the chiropractor so that you don’t miss anything.


That’s It!

Technology isn’t really avoidable in today’s world – unless you live in a cave.

You probably aren’t likely to do away with smartphones or texting just because of an issue they can cause. Instead, you need to prevent the problems from cropping up and, if they have already started, you need to try and treat them.

Your neck is one of the most important body parts; make sure you take great care of it.

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Thank you for your interest in Geek Health Journal. My name is Anne. Feel free to comment on any article and I will help if I can.

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