Your Smart Phone May Be Aging Your Spine

Your Smart Phone May Be Aging Your Spine

Does this look familiar? You’re sitting somewhere, or standing in line, and you pull out your smart phone for a quick look at your mail, or the weather, or the news, or some funny cat videos.  We all do it these days — and our bodies are beginning to retaliate.

Why Is This a Big Deal?  With each degree that our heads flex forward, as we stare at a screen below eye level, the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (weighing 10 to 12 pounds in neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds.*

How Bad Is It?  The average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with head tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines.  Result: skyrocketing numbers of people dealing with headaches, aching necks and shoulders and associated pains. Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains.

What Can We Do About It?  Physical Therapists have become experts in treating the modern-day phenomenon widely known as “text neck.”

  1. Make an appointment with a PT: he or she can help you learn how to interact with your devices without harming your spine.
  2. The PT will also prescribe an at-home program that includes strategies and exercises to focus on preserving your spine and preventing long-term damage. Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters too.
  3. In general: take regular breaks from electronic devices. And the next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.

*These statistics appear in Surgical Technology International, from a surgeon-led study assessing the cervical spine impact of doctors’ head-neck posture during surgery — a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters.