Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are doing in the era of smartphones. many studies show that you most certainly should know about the spine system.
It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport, or riding the train. While it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment and communication, our bodies are beginning to retaliate and mourn the pre-texting days.
So what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our body?
A surgeon-led study that was published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery – a posture similar to that of smartphone users – has on their cervical spines.
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 (that weighs 10-12 pounds) tits forward at 30 degrees, the weight is seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds!
How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14-28 hours each week with their heads tilted over laptops, smartphones, or similar devices. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spine!
As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks, and shoulders, and other associated pain has skyrocketed.
Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, Physical Therapists are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon – widely known as “text neck.”
Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves, and muscle strains. Doctor Alex Miscannon, President of TORQ Physical Therapy has shared his top 3 exercises for text neck:
Upper Trapezius Stretch
This stretch is beneficial for anyone who spends time in front of a computer or on their phone for long periods of time.
Here’s how to perform it: Lean your ear toward your shoulder, holding it for 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch along the side of your neck. Do this stretch on both sides 3 times.
This is a great posture “reset” for those guilty of slouching. To perform a chin tuck, you will essentially make a double chin, which strengthens the muscles on the front of your neck. Attempt this motion for about 10 repetitions, holding for 5 seconds each. Ideally, you want to do this exercise a few times per day.
This exercise is pretty straightforward and easy to do anytime, anywhere, in any position! You want to squeeze your shoulder blades together with your back muscles, holding for up to 5 seconds. Similar to the chin tuck, you want to get around 10 repetitions in.
Scheduling an appointment with a Physical Therapist can help people learn how to interact with their devices without harming their spines.
You will be given a personalized, at-home program that includes strategies and exercises that focus on preserving the spine and preventing long-term damage. In addition to an exercise program, many benefit from Stretch Therapy, performed by a Physical Therapist to aid in their recovery!
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! So, next time you pick up your phone or curl up with your tablet, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come!