Is your smart phone a pain in the neck?

Is your smart phone a pain in the neck?

Are you reading this blog via your cell phone or other hand held device?  Chances are you are looking down at your phone, sitting slumped in your chair or laying in bed with your device on your lap.  For most of us, our lives revolve around our phones.  Physical therapist have noticed this and have coined the phrase “text neck”.  This is not just a texting issue.  This also includes gaming and checking emails.  

Many times in the clinic we will see patients sitting in the waiting room on their phones, slumped in the chair and their heads forward.  Our head typically weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position.  Once the head comes forward that weight can change to 20-30 pounds.  Add arms out in front and you are looking at 40 plus pounds.  And your neck muscles will pay for that.  Maybe not right away but in time, headaches will start to be more prevalent and you will have increased neck and back pain.  Many of the muscles in the front of the neck and chest become shortened and tight and the muscles in the back become weak.  In time one can develop strained muscles, herniated disc and pinched nerves.

Some studies have reports that 8-18 year olds spend an average of 7 and a half hours on devices.  Globally data use on smart devices has tripled from 2010 to 2011.  Adults were also included in this study.  It not only affects your neck but it can also affect range of motion in your shoulders and your ability to breath.  Try taking a deep breath slumped over looking down and then try while sitting up straight.  There is a big difference and experts say a 30% difference in lung capacity.

So what can you do to help decrease you chances of headaches and neck pain?  First of all you can simply stand up straight.  Bring your phone up higher to view or have something in place to allow you viewing device to be more at eye level.  Try and look down with your eyes more often.  Try and keep head in a neutral position with your ears “stacked” on top of your shoulders.  Take frequent breaks from looking down.  Walk around with good posture, roll your shoulders back and stretch your neck and chest muscles.  There are also many apps that will alert you when your phone is at a safe viewing angle with a green light and will alert you with a red light when it is not.  You can even add vibrations or sound to alert you as well.  Most importantly, take frequent breaks from your phone or other smart device.

If you feel you are getting more frequent headaches or neck and back pain, consult your physician or seek out help from a physical therapist.  They can show you proper stretching and strengthening techniques to allow you to enjoy your devices pain free.  Oh and watch out for that person you are about to walk into!
Vivian Plummer-Benzick
Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
Zimmerman Physical Therapy

April 28th, 2015

Posted In: General

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