In this month’s blog I would like to bring awareness to the increasing rise of smartphone use and how it may be impacting your physical health. There are many social and psychological impacts of smartphone use which I've included links to below. However in this article I will mostly be addressing the physical effects of what doctors are now calling the Smartphone Slouch or Text Neck. Since 87% of adults own smartphones I will also take this opportunity to show you some exercises and tips to help prevent or minimize the impact of Text Neck.
How many hours a day does the average adult spend on their smartphone? Well, in 2012 that would have been 2 hours and 20 minutes. Fast forward to 2017 and we're looking at adults whom on average spend 4 hours and 20 minutes, per day on their smartphones. Our smartphone use has doubled in only 5 years to the point where, for the average person this is a part time job!
What are we doing on these smartphones? Well according to statistics, 90% of the time we are using apps like facebook and instagram, and browsing the web. I would like to believe that this is representative of a cultural shift into the age of technology, where we do everything from our smart devices as they make our life so much simpler. However it is hard to look past the mental and physical side effects these changes are having on people today. The damage and degeneration that doctors are seeing in young teens cervical spines is to the extent of severity that use to take decades to develop. Many health professionals are even considering Text Neck to be an epidemic.
I remember when I first began my massage career, we would joke with our clients who worked in front of computers that humans were never meant to sit for 8 hours a day. Now the challenge we face is that many of our clients sit at work for 8 hours a day and then go home and sit for another 4-5 hours.
Since smartphone use is becoming unavoidable I think our best approach is to obtain awareness of our posture, aim to achieve better posture, stretch and exercise to counter the effects, and reduce our amount of time spent using them.
The above diagram depicts the weight added to your neck when your head is looking down at your smartphone or tablet. The first person on the left is showing you the ideal position for you to stand in while using your smartphone. His ears are in alignment with his shoulders and his head is balanced on top of his neck resulting in no additional weight being added to his neck. As you can see with the second person, his head is only tilted forwards 15 degrees and the weight of his head on his neck has doubled to 27 lbs!
Which degree would you say you spend the majority of your time smartphone-ing in? If it isn’t like the first person then there is a good chance you are adding unnecessary stress to your cervical spine which could result in long-term damage.
So this is how your neck is effected from a Forward Head Posture (FHP) when in a standing position. Not very many of us stand to use our phones for extended periods of time so lets take a closer look at how this posture can effect us when we are sitting.
So regardless of whether you are sitting up straight or slouching your hips and lower back are effected just from sitting for long periods of time. If you are slouching, then the weight of your head on your spine is increased by 10 pounds for every degree of FHP.
Now lets take a closer look at the head, neck and arms. When your arms are out in front of you holding your smartphone for a long period of time your pects are shortening and in turn pulling your shoulders forwards and creating more tension in your mid and upper back. Your head is looking down at your hands causing the muscles in the front of the neck to shorten increasing tension in the back of the neck, which is already strained by the added weight of your head looking down at your hands.
These are some of the symptoms of Text Neck:
These are some of the conditions caused from Text Neck:
Here are some ways to reverse Text Neck:
Stretching is key! If you spend 8 hours on the computer per day aim to stretch for 30 minutes. If you spend 4 hours on your iPhone try stretching for 15-20 minutes or more.
Here’s some basic stretches to help reverse the Smartphone Slouch, make sure to warm up with some light neck circles before stretching, and hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Massage Therapy, Acupuncture and Physiotherapy are all great ways to bring your body back into balance if you feel you are suffering from the Smartphone Slouch. But the best medicine of all is to reduce your smartphone time as much as you can. This is easier said than done in a society where technology is becoming more and more integrated into our day to day. Here’s a few more tips you can try:
Use your phone as a phone and nothing else... Calls & texts only!
If you feel withdrawals from your beloved smartphone get outside and go on an adventure, socialize with other people in person, get involved in your community, learn how to cook a new dish. Remember, humans were never meant to sit for 8 hours a day.
Here are some medical research links on the mental, social, and physical effects of Text Neck:
The impact of smartphones and mobile devices on human health and life
Smartphones and Cognition:
The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function:
Effects of smartphone use with and without blue light at night in healthy adults
The Impact of Social Networking
Heavy Smartphone use linked to lower intelligence
1) Everyone perceives pressure differently there is nothing right or wrong with that. I am very perceptive with the pressure my clients need, but I'm not a mind reader. Many people are hyper-sensitive and others are hypo-sensitive. Some people may flinch and tense up, and in the same breath tell you to go deeper, followed by how "they probably need it" or "it will feel better in a couple days". Where as some clients don't want to be sore for a day or two after, and they would prefer to feel good in the moment and a few days after. Everyone responds to pressure differently, and some areas may be more sensitive than others. We try our best to gauge this by listening to a client’s body and responses, but it’s not always easy and we encourage you to have open communication. We are not offended by being told to go lighter or deeper. In fact, we can always go lighter, but some of us may not be able to go as deep as you want us too. We will always try are best, so tell us how your body feels!
2) Underwear; to wear, or not to wear...That is the question! Whatever you prefer is fine with us! Some therapists prefer underwear to be worn, because it’s easier to drape the linens if there is something to tuck it into. Other therapists feel the opposite, and think that it gets in the way. In my case clients are 70-30 for commando! There is no judgement either way, I use professional draping so it comes down to the client's comfort level. Ultimately I find it easier to work the glutes without underwear, but I can also easily utilize different techniques to release the glutes over the underwear and sheets.
3) For the ladies who didn't shave those legs… No biggie and also no need to apologize for them! We massage all different shapes and sizes of bodies and we are completely desensitized to the hair that comes with our clients! Although I don't blame you for apologizing. For some bizarre unexplainable reason I know this, yet I too feel the need to excuse myself in this situation. "I am usually hairless! Please excuse this rare human hair incident!" C’mon ladies this is ridiculous our legs are never shaved on the daily! Can we all just move past this?
4) Is my face supposed to go in this hole? What about my arms? …. Face in the hole, please! If your face hates being in the hole, rest it to the side or ask me to grab you an extra pillow for under your face/ chest. For lower back pain some prefer a pillow under their hips. Some people are uncomfortable laying face up, or face down so there is always the option of being massaged on your side. Your arms can lay on the support shelf under your face, or on the table beside your body. You can also rest your hand on the headrest under your forehead. If you want any therapeutic, or deep tissue work done to your upper back or shoulders, I will move your arms to your side while working this area.
5) Are we supposed to chat or zen out? … Your call! Sometimes my job feels a bit like "the hairdresser"… we are not psychologists, and we can't give educated, or informed opinions/suggestions about anything unrelated to massage. As a massage therapist we listen, we support, and we encourage positive growth! With that said when you want to zen out and have some quiet “you” time, you got it! Silence accompanied by some healing reiki vibes coming your way!
6) What's up with the music?…. This is your massage, that you are paying for, and you need to be able to relax as much as possible. Choosing the right music is key. Some people love chirping birds and waterfalls, for other people that combination makes them have to pee! I always bring some world music, and yoga style meditation sounds. Some people like to play the spa channel on their TV, and you’re always welcome to continue listening to what you were enjoying prior to my arrival; this is another benefit of having an in-home massage. Music choice is important to your state of relaxation, you are in control of this!
7) Can you tell when I haven't done my stretches? I suppose it is similar to when the dentist asks how often you floss and you say "I floss, but I could floss more often"? Sorry, it’s true! You're certainly not hiding anything, and stretching will only reduce how often you have to see me. You will have an increase in your range of motion, your muscles will be stronger and your agility and endurance will greatly improve!
8) Should I ice my body after a massage?... If your therapist asks you to ice after a massage, it is usually because they were creating a temporary low grade inflammatory response in the muscle tissue. Now, why are earth would we want to do that? We do this in certain areas, in order to promote healing. With inflammation comes swelling, with swelling comes fresh blood, which means fresh oxygen and nutrients for the surrounding muscle tissue. This is only applicable to certain areas where the muscle tissue isn't already receiving proper blood or nerve supply. This could be due to an injury, muscle knot, scar tissue or postural reasons. Often times in these areas, the muscle fibers are no longer aligned parallel to each other as they should be. This causes the blood vessels and nerve supply to become trapped, and unable to properly supply the surrounding tissue. We go against the fiber direction in these areas to try and break up the tissue that is in some cases adhered to itself in a mess of fibers going multiple directions. This technique is called cross-fiber friction and wherever this is done, your body will have a much better response if you ice for 5-10 minutes following the massage. The ice will reduce the inflammation, and in turn begin pulling those fibers back into parallel alignment. Icing these spots on a day to day basis will not typically help, as you need to break that knot up before the fibers will begin to realign properly. However stretching on a daily basis will most definitely help you keep these knots out after you’ve had them broken up!!
9) Should I workout before or after a massage?… If you are going for a relaxation massage, your workout schedule will not be affected. On the other hand if you are going for a Therapeutic, or Deep Tissue Massage, you will have the best results if you give your body a day to rest and recuperate after the treatment. We generally recommend 12-24 hours. You wouldn't work your upper body out two days in a row, just as you wouldn't want to get a deep tissue massage two days in a row. For the same reason it makes sense that you wait 24 hours between massage and workouts, as the recovery/ healing process is similar. It is fine to workout before a massage, and in fact a light workout prior to a massage is encouraged. Your muscles will be warmed up which will make it easier for the therapist to work deeper into the muscle tissue.
10) What is the benefit of soaking in Epsom salts? Well in short, soaking in salts can help accelerate the healing process within the body, as well as aid in detoxing after a massage. A lot of toxins are released from the tissues during a massage, and salt soaks coupled with drinking lots of water can really help your body flush all this out! If you've already taken the time and spent the money to get a massage, you might as well reap the full benefits! The magnesium found in Epsom salts get absorbed by your body, aiding in muscle repair. However, there are many amazing benefits to Himalayan salts, and Dead Sea salts as well!
Stay tuned for a future blog post on How to Pick the Right Bath Salts!
Author: Jess Luther
These blogs are mostly health related with an occasional twist of esoteric science and mystical physics.