One aspect of living in the information age is that we’re continuously consuming more and more information on our mobile devices. From emails, texts, gaming apps, and calls, to surfing the web, most of us have some form of electronic device in our hands for long periods of time.
What we may not know is that this extended use of cell phones and even tablets can cause damage to our spinal cords. Indeed, when we in the health community advocate using proper posture, we are not only referring to your seated position, but good posture applies to how you stand and walk, as well.
Unfortunately, our mobile devices make it difficult to maintain good posture. As with anything else in life, what starts off as something inconsequential can snowball into a serious problem. For instance, we get a text, whip out our phones and then lean over to see what that incoming message says. However, what we don’t realize is that bending forward for extended periods of time can put undue stress on our lower back.
How Your Mobile Device Impacts Your Spine
Your head is held upright by a combination of the neck (cervical spine) and its muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These parts of your upper body are responsible for moving your head sideways, as well as front and back.
When we lean forward to look at our phones, we place added strain on each of these muscle groups. So, while one might think that looking down only involves tilting our neck, if we move too far forward, the intervertebral discs of the neck must also get involved just to provide the extra support our upper bodies need to carry out the motion.
The average adult’s head weighs between 10-12 pounds, and studies show that our head can exert 2-5 times that weight on our neck and back, depending on our head’s posture. Put another way, as the angle we lean at increases, so too does the weight of our head. Indeed, in a recently simulated computer model created at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine Center, Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj was able to show how a 15-degree head tilt can add up to 27 pounds of strain on our body.
The problem is made worse by the fact that as we lean forward, our shoulders also slouch to compensate for the extra weight. When this happens, it is the back and spine that suffer the most as you must adjust your back to maintain this posture. Furthermore, due to the repetitive nature of the action, looking down at our phones causes our bodies to treat this posture as normal, which ingrains it into our anatomy.
Lessening the Impact of Poor Cell Phone Posture
If you’re worried that your mobile device may be forcing you to exhibit bad posture the good news is that there is a remedy.
The first step involves developing an awareness of your posture at all times. Doing so will help to gradually correct the problem as you go along and soon enough, your body will begin re-adjusting on its own. Likewise, sitting well can also serve to reinforce any other corrective actions you may take.
Reducing the amount of time you spend looking at your mobile device may also aid in reducing back strain, but if you have to use your device for a long time, you can also try holding your phone higher so that you don’t have to bend your neck so far. For this method to be effective, you’ll want to make sure the mobile device is in line with your face or just level with your chin.
There you have it. Now that you know the connection between mobile devices and back pain, it’s my hope that you take action to end this habit before it becomes a serious problem.
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