You never stop to think about it, but your neck carries
around about 12 pounds of head weight.
Now youíre thinking about it. Thatís 12 pounds when your neck, or
cervical spine, is in an upright, straight position. If you bend your neck forward and down, that
weight begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27
pounds, at 30 degrees itís 40 pounds, at 45 degrees itís 49 pounds, and at 60
degrees itís 60 pounds.
Thatís the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone ó
the way millions do for hours every day, according to new research published in
Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers report, this poor
posture, more frequently being referred to as "text neck,Ē can lead to early
wear-and-tear on the spine and even more serious problems.
"Just look around you Ė and youíll see people everywhere
with their heads down looking at their phones, iPad or even laptops. Itís a
very common problem that is contributing to problems that we are seeing in our
office,Ē says Dr. Bill Lowry, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist
with Center for Orthopaedics.
Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per
day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media
sites. Thatís 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their
spines, according to the research. And teens might be the worst. The study
found they potentially spend an
additional 5,000 hours in this position.
Dr. Lowry says the symptoms associated with text neck are chronic
headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, increased curvature of
the spine and early onset of arthritis. Young people could develop permanent
damage to their spine, and research has shown that the prolonged poor posture that
comes from the use of wireless devices can also reduce lung capacity by as much
as 30 percent.
"Text neck does not occur only from texting,Ē says Dr.
Lowry. "People have always looked down to read, but the problem with new
technology is that we never look up. We go from texting to email to reading to
watching a video to working and never look up. We can do everything we need to
do, whether itís work or entertainment --
or both Ė right there on the same device that weíre looking down at.
Before you know it, youíve had your head bent down at an angle over your device
for literally hours. This happens day
after day. Over time, thatís a lot of extra stress on your neck.
As with most overuse-type injuries, Dr. Lowry says prevention is key. "While it
is nearly impossible to avoid the technology that cause these issues, you should
make an effort to look at your phone and other devices at eye level, with a
neutral, or straight, spine. Be
conscious of how much time each day you are spending hunched over a device and
try to minimize that time to minimize the potential damage.Ē
He also advices taking frequent breaks during your
technology time, and moving your head from left to right, and rotation your
shoulders back often to alleviate stress on the neck, shoulder and back
"Awareness of the problem will actually help a great deal,Ē
says Dr. Lowry. "It is possible to take advantage of all the benefits
technology offers without doing permanent damage in the process.Ē
For more information
about any musculoskeletal problem, call Center for Orthopaedics, an affiliate
of Imperial Health, at (337) 721-7236 or visit www.centerforortho.com.