Do you spend hours hunched over your phone, checking texts, tweets and emails? Do you also suffer from neck and back pain? If so, the two may well be related.
New research has found that bending forward to read a text or study a selfie can put undue pressure on the neck and the further you bend your head, the greater the force on the neck. This force also affects the spine, leading to back pain and soreness.
Think about how you look at your phone or tablet: many of us hold these devices at just below chest level, causing us to look down at them. The head weighs around 12 pounds on average, but lowering the head can increase this by up to five times!
A 60 degree bend in the neck (as shown in the image below) creates an additional 60lbs worth of pressure on the cervical spine, or more than the weight of an average seven year old. Even a lesser tilt has a considerable impact:
- 45 degrees adds pressure of 49lbs
- 30 degrees equals 40lbs
- 15 degrees is an extra 27lbs
But this poor posture effects more than just your neck: it stretches the muscles and joints in the neck to their full extent which leads to a loss of the ‘natural curve’ of the cervical spine. Over a period of time other problems can develop, with the full impact potentially having an effect throughout the body:
- Tight, sore muscles, neck pain and even headaches
- Persistent forward-tilted head posture
- Reduced shoulder mobility and rotator cuff problems
- Anterior pelvic tilt (bottom pushed out backwards)
- Stiff spine as the muscles and discs are placed under stress. This may lead to early wear, tear and degeneration, and possibly even surgery.
While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, we should all make the effort to look at our phones and other devices with a neutral spine and trying some of these simple techniques could lead to a significant improvement:
- Raise your phone to your eyes rather than bending forward
- Put a sign at eye level in front of your desk reminding yourself to gently squeeze your shoulders together and not to slump when you are sitting.
- Stretch every so often at your desk. Place your hands behind your head, squeeze your elbows together and gently move backwards until you feel a stretch in the tight area of your upper back.
- Smile: positive ‘facial posture’ plays an essential part in signalling an upward lift in our mood.
- Eating 200mg of oily fish twice a week will help to reduce inflammation and pain.
And don’t forget to persist! Retraining your muscles to keep you in an upright position can seem like hard work at first, but the more you practice, the more natural it becomes.
Elite Therapy is a multidisciplinary sports therapy and physiotherapy clinic in Coventry. We treat a range of injuries both sporting and non-sporting as well as back, neck and musculoskeletal pain. Elite Therapy’s services include assessment and diagnosis, physiotherapy, sports therapy, massage therapy, taping and ultrasound. There is also an on-site rehabilitation gym and studio for the Pilates and yoga classes.