Your cell phone is destroying your spine!!!
Got your attention? Good.
We all do it. We are all guilty. We check our cell phones all too often, some of us over 100 times per day. And many of us are doing it all wrong! People around the world from Yishun to New York City are using their cell phones the wrong way.
Human beings are not made to sit in an office tethered to our cell phones. We are made to move. Take a moment and think about how you use your phone (some of you may be reading this on your cell phone right now). Can you feel how craning your head forward and downward to write a text, watch a video, or read an article pulls on your neck? This posture is not normal and our necks were not designed to function this way. We can describe this abnormal function as “Tech Neck”, and we need to understand it, fix it, and avoid it.
There is an old adage among engineers and biologists. “Structure dictates function”. This means that the way an object is designed represents how it is to be used. Here is an example, if you look at a chair, you can see how it is made to be sat on. Now if you look at a neck, you can see that is made to support the head and allow movement.
How would you use this?
So what is Tech Neck? It is an increasingly common source of neck pain. We have muscles and attachments running from the tops of our heads down to the bottoms of our feet, this in known as the “posterior chain”. It is connected through the fascia, the nervous system, and the skeleton. When one muscle contracts, another must relax. This is the basic reasoning behind any movement. Tech Neck results when our heads are continually flexed forward for extended periods of time. This results in stresses being transmitted throughout the rest of our posterior chain. So tech neck may not only hurt our necks, it can very well result in pains anywhere from our necks down to our mid and lower backs, legs and hips, knees, ankles, even the bottoms of our feet!
Mobile devices have taken the world by storm in a few short years, and now time away from work for spine-related pain is at an all-time high worldwide. As the availability of handheld devices and time spent working on computers increases, so do incidents of neck complaints. Look around the MRT sometime and you will not see the eyes of the passengers, rather, you will see the tops of their heads as they stare into their mobile devices.
Almost everyone across the planet has access to a hand held device. People are beginning to use the devices at younger and younger ages. A recent study has shown that school-aged children spend an average of 8 hours on a computer, tablet, or phone every single day!! Schools are relying more and more heavily on mobile device use. We go home and use our devices in the car, at the dinner table, in bed, even in the shower!
This all happened relatively quickly in the course of human history. The problem is, our bodies were never warned and prepared for such a drastic change to our lifestyles and our structure does not account for this new demand that we are placing on it. This forward head posture with stooped back and rounded shoulders is not how humans were designed to function. The weight of the heads increases exponentially as it moves forward away from the midline center of gravity. That increase in weight places a load on the cervical spine that is simply not sustainable. It is no wonder that mechanical neck and back pain is at an all-time high!
This situation is not hopeless, we can avoid this dilemma with a few simple steps.
1- Become aware this is a problem and start correcting bad habits.
2- Maintain full range of motion and strengthen muscles.
3- Put down the technology.
Chiropractors are uniquely equipped to help manage this situation. Our knowledge of the biomechanics of the spine and the forces applied give us insight into the cause of neck pain. Chiropractors have the ability to facilitate locked joints and return the range of motion to the ideal state. This makes them perfect primary care providers for neck pain and other mechanical maladies.
We don’t have to give up our cell phones. We just have to be aware of how we use them. So how should you use your phone? First, we keep our arms and elbows close to our body. Then we bring the phone up to our eyes instead of bending our eyes down to our phones. We engage the muscles between our shoulders and keep our backs nice and straight and relaxed. Finally, we limit the amount of time we spend on our device. Not staring at the phone for long periods of time, but instead using short chunks. We make a conscious effort to do this every day. Eventually our bodies will register this posture as normal and we will assume this position without even thinking about it. Our bodies will think of it as normal. Bad posture is learned through repetition and habit. It can be un-learned the same way.
Connecting our conscious thinking brain to our physical body through breath, focus, and full range of motion is the key to maintaining good physical health. Taking time out each day to set the phone down and think about our health is an absolute necessity. Breathing begins in our diaphragm. Focus begins with concentration. Full range of motion begins with having our joints and muscles unrestricted.
Education is the first step in any lasting change. Being here, you now have opened yourself up to the idea of good posture while using your devices. That is something that you have learned and cannot un-learn. Sorry, but you are now stuck with this knowledge!
Taking a few moments each day wherever you are can make all the difference. Before you get up in the morning, take a moment to tell yourself that this will be a good day, and that you are a healthy person. This will put an attitude of health into your mind for the entire day. When you are at work or school and have been sitting for awhile. Get up. Walk around, even for just 5 minutes an hour. If that is not possible, set an alarm for every 20-30 minutes. When it goes off, settle your mind and take a nice long breathe and stretch. Let your muscles relax and find their proper posture. The whole process might take 20 seconds. Easily achievable. No excuses!
The world is a beautiful place, we should look at it once in a while.