A Pain in the Neck- How Your Smartphone is Affecting Your Health

A Washington Post article reports 58 percent of American adults own a smartphone. That same group of adults is at higher risk of neck and spine injury. In a study to be published in the December issue of Surgical Technology International, the burdens of frequent texting and/or general smart phone use are noted to be the potential equivalent of an extra 60 lbs on the spine. Kenneth Hansraj, researcher of the study and spinal and orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, NY, refers to the smartphone induced posture as “text neck,” which he claims can lead to degeneration of the spine or perhaps surgery.

An adult head weighs approximately 10 to 12 lbs when standing up straight (a zero degree head-tilt), but tilting the head forward to a 30 degree angle can increase the weight of the head to 40 lbs and to a 60 degree angle up to 60 lbs. An average smartphone user reportedly spends an average of two to four hours a day hunched over their phone, accounting for 700 to 1,400 hours per year. High school students are considered to be the worst, potentially spending an additional 5,000 hours per year in the position. Hansraj says,

The problem is really profound in young people…  With this excessive stress in the neck, we might start seeing young people needing spine care. I would really like to see parents showing more guidance.”

Medical concerns related to smartphone usage include inflamed tissue, muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and an altering of the neck’s natural curve. Furthermore, poor posture has been linked to reduce lung capacity, headaches, neurological issues, depression, and heart disease.

To reduce stress on the spine, Hansraj doesn’t suggest throwing away your phone. Instead he recommends smartphone owners use their range of eye motion to read their phone, rather than their neck and to participate in a range of posture strengthening activities listed here.

Read more here- “’Text Neck’ is Becoming an ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine,” (Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.

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