Texting on your smartphone could damage your spine - What can you do about it?
Given that both posture and respiratory function is affected by prolonged smartphone use, osteopathic treatment is a suitable physical treatment option for those who are forced by work or by habit to spend prolonged amounts of time using a smartphone. The symptoms of prolonged use of smart devices have a tendency to strongly affect the young people in our communities. There are osteopathic treatments and adaptations which can help to aleviate and help prevent frequent pain and complications associated with extended smartphone use. Osteopathic treatment is highly effective and reliable. (1)
The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.
That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone — the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear next month in Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers say, this poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery.
“It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”
Can’t grasp the significance of 60 pounds? Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours per day. Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines, according to the research. And high-schoolers might be the worst. They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position, Hansraj said.
“The problem is really profound in young people,” he said. “With this excessive stress in the neck, we might start seeing young people needing spine care. I would really like to see parents showing more guidance.”
Medical experts have been warning people for years. Some say for every inch the head tilts forward, the pressure on the spine doubles.
Tom DiAngelis, president of the American Physical Therapy Association‘s Private Practice Section, told CNN last year the effect is similar to bending a finger all the way back and holding it there for about an hour.
“As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore, it gets inflamed,” he said. It can also cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. (2)(3)
There were significant differences in the craniovertebral angle, scapular index, and peak expiratory flow depending on the duration of smartphone usage. The result of this study showed that prolonged use of smartphones could negatively affect both, posture and respiratory function.(4)