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
Author: Jess Luther
These blogs are mostly health related with an occasional twist of esoteric science and mystical physics.