Technology has become an incredibly integral part of our lives. As it has adapted and changed, so have humans in the 21st century; we’re constantly on our smartphones—texting, calling, checking our Facebook updates,often for hours every day—and it may have a significant detrimental effect on our bodies.
The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds in a neutral position–when your ears are over your shoulders . But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine (neck) begins to increase, causing stress. According to a study in 2008, if you lean 15 degrees forward, it’s as if your head weighs 27 pounds. If you lean 30 degrees, it’s as if your head weighs 40 pounds. If you lean 45 degrees, it’s 49 pounds. When you’re hunched over at a 60 degree angle, like most of us are many times throughout the day, you’re putting a 60 pound strain on your neck. So what does this mean for your spine? This pressure can put a lot of stress on your neck and spine, pulling it out of alignment.
Over time, this poor posture can lead to disc herniation, pinched nerves, metabolic problems, degeneration and even spine surgery.
Prolonged smartphone use has been shown to cause changes in neck proprioception (the joint position sense of the body that controls most of our balance and posture).
With a rise in headaches, neck pain, ADHD, sensory processing disorders, sleep issues and many more we have to realize that our technologies can be directly contributing. “Text Neck” can completely alter the way your brain perceives the environment and your health!
It has also been shown that prolonged use can impact our feed forward motor control ( a way our central nervous system regulates motor control and spinal stability during sudden perturbation – a disturbance of motion.) Feed-forward motor control controls equilibrium and how we sense balance.
Think about the effect of 60 pounds for a moment – it’s the equivalent 5 bowling balls weighing 12 pounds or an eight year old child hanging around your neck . While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, there are some simple steps we can take to take this strain off of our necks.
A Few Easy Fixes Include:·
- Take frequent breaks while using any mobile device or desktop computer.
- Practice exercises to help you build strength, such as standing in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to build muscles that help posture.
- Be mindful of your posture – keep your neck back and your ears over your shoulders.
- Look down at your mobile device with your eyes without bending your neck.
- Whenever you are in the comforts of your home, lay on the ground to use your device. Laying on the ground allows your muscles in the shoulders and neck to relax after a long day of usage. It is wise to use any device, whether it is smartphone or computer, at eye level.
- Avoid slouching or leaning forward. Focus more on leaning back against the backrest. Knees should be even with your hips and both feet should be flat on the floor. Try to avoid crossing your legs.
- Finally make sure your shoulders are straight. Exercising and strengthen your shoulders and neck will go a long way from hurting yourself. People should also take frequent breaks to help keep pain at bay.
- Much like anything else in life, it will take self-control and discipline to enact these kinds of changes. But if you take into account how often we are on our devices, it boggles the mind at the cumulative damage we are doing to our necks and backs. By minimize the risks and adjusting our posture, we can hold off any long-term negatives effects on our bodies.
- It’s worth being mindful.
In short, continue to enjoy the incredible benefits of your smartphone, but remember to keep your head up!