Technology Use: Posture and Health

Let’s be honest – most of us who use a cell phone don’t sit in perfect posture. This posture has even been given a label of “text neck”. Interesting research shows that the increased usage of phones and computers brings about a variety of health challenges that can compound over time. An average person spends from 2 to 4 hours a day with their head tilted forward for reading or texts on their phone. So this amounts to 700-1400 hours of excess, abdominal cervical spine stress per year!

By no means are we against cell phone usage (although sometimes I wish I could get rid of mine). One of our biggest concerns about cell phone usage is related to posture. This is because our spines tend to be flexed forward into a less than optimal position.

What symptoms are possibly associated with cell phone usage and poor posture?

  1. Upper back pain
  2. Shoulder pain and tightness
  3. Neck pain and possible neurological symptoms into your arms

Forward head flexion places significant stress on the soft and hard tissues of the cervical spine (neck). A 2014 study titled 

Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol In. 2014 Nov;25:277-9. PMID: 25393825

assessed the load on the cervical spine as the head tilted into forward into a worsening position. Using the assumption that the head weighs around 13.2 lbs in an average adult, they increased the forward head posture in the participants and measured the relative load on their cervical spine.

  • At 0 degrees of forward flexion, the weight on the neck was 10-12 lbs (on average).
  • 15 degrees increased the weight on the neck by 27 lbs.
  • 30 degrees increased the weight on the neck by 40 lbs.
  • 45 degrees increased the weight on the neck by 49 lbs.
  • 60 degrees increased the weight on the neck by 60 lbs.

*For any current patients – this is discussed on your posture picture taken during many of your assessments.

Why is this important?

Good posture of the neck is defined as the ears being aligned with the shoulders and scapulas retracted. Proper alignment decreased spinal stress not only in the neck but the rest of the spine.

The use of cell phones are not going anywhere anytime soon, so it is important that we make some postural adjustments to improve the long term health of our spine and nervous system.

What can you do to support your posture?

  • First thing to focus on is you need to start holding your cell phone at eye level as much as possible. But the same holds true for all screens – laptops, desk computers, iPads.
  • Take a break from your phone or device throughout the day. You can set a timer for every 20-30 minutes to go for a walk or move your body around to make sure it happens (especially if you know you are going to be working for a while).
  • Strength exercises: You need to have strong core muscles to start. Check out these videos as a starting place to strengthen your core.
  • Stretching your neck, upper back and shoulders can be very helpful as well. Check out the following video for postural exercises and stretches for at home and work. 
  • Get a Chiropractic assessment: Chiropractic can help people to stay mobile, aligned and live healthier while you still benefit from the use of technology.

If you see someone in full on text mode, tell them to straighten up or they might get stuck like that! No seriously…long term slouching and forward head posture creates patterns that can become hard to break and can significantly alter your structure. Practice safe text!