U.S. smartphone owners now spend an average of 4.7 hours on their smartphones every day, according to Informate Moblie Intelligence Pvt. Ltd., a research firm that measures consumer activity on smartphones and tablets in 12 countries. You might respond to that piece of data the way I would–“I know I spend a lot of time on my phone, but over 4 hours per day?!? No way! Not me!”
And that may be true, maybe you don’t spend THAT much time per day on your smartphone or other hand-held device, but chances are you’re looking down at your phone or device right now to read this article so you are probably looking down for at least a portion of your day. As we look down, our upper back tends to round as our heads and necks begin to jut forward and out of alignment from our spines. Recent research from Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, found that looking down at your phone for prolonged periods of time can dramatically increase the pressure on your neck and spine. Tilting your head forward 15 degrees places an additional 27 pounds of stress on the cervical spine. However, most of us view our phones with our heads at a 60 degree angle which increases that stress on the cervical spine to 60 pounds. This can lead to pain and a condition called “text neck.”
Since smartphones have become such a part of our culture, we need to find ways to incorporate them into our lives in a healthy way. Try implementing these suggestions to see if they help you.
- Moderation–set time limits for yourself by setting a timer for yourself. Every 20 – 30 minutes, take a short break and do one of the stretches listed below.
- Position–hold your cell phone a little higher. It may feel less comfortable for your arms, but your neck will thank you for it. Use a stand for your tablet that helps keep it more at eye-level.
- Strengthen and stretch your neck muscles–do one or more of the following stretches daily.
Shoulder Blade Pinches
While standing or sitting, pinch your shoulder blades together and back. Really focus on the feeling of your shoulder blades wrapping around your spinal column while keeping your shoulders down and away from ears. You will feel your chest open up a bit as your shoulders pull back. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds and then release. Repeat 8-10 times.
Text neck can cause your chest muscles to shorten. To stretch these muscles, in a doorway, place one forearm inside the door frame, with your elbow at shoulder height. Keeping your arm stable, turn your shoulders slightly in the opposite direction causing the chest muscle to stretch gently. Hold for 15 seconds. then repeat with the opposite arm.
Prone Neck Extension
Lie face down on a mat, arms by your side. Bring your shoulder blades back and down. Extend your head to look forward, then in a slow, smooth manner, lift your shoulders off the mat, and finally, lift your chest off the mat. Hold for 10 seconds then very deliberately and slowly, first lower your chest, then your shoulders, and finally your head. Repeat 8-10 times.