A YouTube video showing people walking into everything from doors and walls to cars and fountains while looking down at their cell phones has drawn hundreds of thousands of online views and at least that many laughs.
The potential for injury stemming from staring at your cell phone is no laughing matter, however, and the dangers extend beyond the possibility of stumbling or falling as a result of simply not paying attention to what you’re doing while on your phone.
Staring down at your cell phone for extended periods of time can also lead to some painfully serious medical conditions, including a few that are tied exclusively to the simple way in which most of us typically look at our cell phones.
Tech Neck, Text Neck and the Smart Phone Slump are some of the names of these conditions, and they are all byproducts of the stresses that are placed on our head, neck and shoulders when we assume this seemingly standard posture.
For most, that posture includes simply looking down, but a study conducted by, Dr. Kenneth K Hansraj, the chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, found that the stress created by that posture is significant.
For example, when we stand upright and hold our head in the neutral or straight-up position, 10-12 pounds of force is placed on the neck and cervical spine. That force increases dramatically, however, with every degree with which we tilt the head forward.
By tilting the head forward just 15 degrees, the force on the neck muscles and cervical spine more than doubles to 27 pounds. At 30 degrees of tilt the force increases to 40 pounds and at 60 degrees, where the chin is nearest the chest, the force is 60 pounds.
Stay in that position long enough or assume it often enough as cell-phone users often do and the resulting damage to those areas of the body can include intermittent or constant neck, shoulder and back pain and headaches.
For some, these symptoms are so severe that a doctor’s care is required to correct them. Others may be able to correct them by doing a few simple home exercises such as placing your hands behind your head, opening your elbows wide and looking upward.
As is often the case, though, the best remedy is prevention. With that in mind here are five simple tips – courtesy of Spine-Health.com – to follow that can help you prevent Tech Neck, Text Neck, Smart Phone Slump and other related problems.
- Set time limits.Limit the amount of time and frequency that you use your device. If you have to use it for an extended period of time, take breaks. Develop a habit of taking a three-minute break for every 15-20 minutes you use your device. Change your posture and move around.
- Set automatic reminders.Utilize an automatic alarm with your smart device reminding you to take a time out. For those of you that have wearable devices these can be set to remind you to break, such as the iWatch which can tap you every 15-20 minutes.
- Use a tablet holder.Purchase a holder to elevate your device to significantly reduce the amount of neck flexion and forward positioning. Try to keep the device as close to eye-level as possible. This is a great tool to reduce Tech Neck.
- Sit in a chair with a headrest.Switch to a chair with a headrest and make sure to keep the back of your head in contact with the headrest while using your tablet, phone or laptop. Keeping the back of your head flush against the headrest will ensure that you’re not looking down with your neck flexed forward.
- Use pain as a warning.If you’re experiencing neck pain between the shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in the arms or frequent headaches there may be a more serious issue going on. Pay attention to these warning signs and act quickly to make changes to reduce or eliminate any head-forward posture that is straining your neck.