New research suggests that looking down to check your phone is putting 27-kg of force on your neck. That’s like one giant anteater, or four full-sized bowling balls worth of strain on your neck, and you're doing it several times a day.

BEC CREW www.sciencealert.com

How smart is your smart phone? Is the use of it leading to the increased rate of early  spinal degeneration and osetoarthritis? 

Iphones and neck pain

Image: Kenneth Hansraj (image from Journal of Neuro and Spine Surgery #593  )

With most people spending up to 4 hrs a day (1) on their smart phones the increased load  caused by using these devices will undoubtedly increase “wear and tear” on the spine. As clinician’s we are seeing more and more people with chronic neck and mid thoracic area driven and aggravated by poor posture and the cause of this is in many times caused by the use of their smart phones, pc’s or laptops. Other contributors are commonly poor sleeping posture and poor postures during sitting watching television or in meetings.

“As the head tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surge to 27 pounds (12 kg) at 15 degrees, 40 pounds (18 kg) at 30 degrees, 49 pounds (22 kg) at 45 degrees and 60 pounds (27 kg) at 60 degrees,” Hansraj reports in the journal Surgical Technology International.

Whilst these figures relate to the adult spine the issue is not restricted to adults. Many children as young as 5-6 are being exposure to hours of strain due to the use of smaller electronic devices in their i-play time.

Child Playing on Tablet PC

Many parents should consider this in an effort to prevent spinal problems in the developing spine.  The use of these devices as virtual babysitters may in fact be causing long term damage to the children. Having seen spinal conditions for the past 17 years there is no doubt that I am seeing people younger and younger with spinal conditions due to the use of these devices.  I am often surprised that many children are spending 4-6 hrs a day on electronic devices, and thats on top of using them at school. Whilst treating one such case the parent did not blink when they calculated the time their son was straining his spine whilst using his device of choice. Lets just say I think the household gaming rules have now changed.

In a day of addiction and dependance on mobile devices the researcher acknowledges that we “don’t just throw away our phones”, but instead concentrate on good postures and biomechanics when using these devices.

Top 8 Physica Tips for use of a mobile device:

  1. Try and use the devices in a supportive chair with you feet flat on the ground and your mid back straight.
  2. Bring the device closer to you and angle it to avoid flexing your neck down. Opt for the covers which can tilt to make this easier.
  3. Limit your device time to 10 minutes for small devices and 30-40 minutes for seated PC or laptop use.
  4. Break up your device session with a walk around and stretch you neck and spine.
  5. Avoid using devices whilst lying down on your stomach or sides.
  6. Opt for a larger screen where possible. If you are using a laptop or tablet for an extended time use a monitor and keyboard. Small bluetooth keyboards can also be purchased for tablets, and mobile devices.
  7. Children should avoid using the devices for more than 60 minutes total time per day.
  8. Stretch out the hands and monitor any hand or thumb pain following the use of mobile devices.
    Poor baby posture

    Virtual babysitting

Should you have any questions please discuss this with your Physcia practitioner.

References

(1) KENNETH K. HANSRAJ, MD Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head  Neuro and Spine Surgery #593 2014