What Cell Phone Usage Is Doing To Our Necks
According to a recent study1, an average person spends approximately 90 minutes a day staring down at their phone. If this is true for you then this accounts for almost 23 days a year and 4 years of your life!
Whether you are checking your phone for text messages, playing candy crush, just browsing through the internet, or making a phone call to your friend for a couple of minutes; you are at risk of catching some serious physiological as well as mental health conditions. Read on to find some common health concerns you can suffer while using your phone for a long period of time.
Decrease Cervical Extensions
“Text neck” is a popular term used to describe an overuse syndrome that affects the cervical spines of frequent phone users. This condition affects a majority of people as they are spending more and more time on their smartphones and other electronic devices. Putting a lot of pressure on your neck as you usually do while using your phone can cause potential loss of the spine's natural curves that can further lead to decrease of cervical extension which is a straightening to the spine or can even cause a reversal or your normal curve. Worse, it can also lead to irreversible degenerative disk disease and outgrowth of the cervical bones (bone spurs) that can pinch your nerves and maybe a constant source of neck pain and headaches.
Disc Herniations and Degeneration
In a neutral position, i.e., when your ears are over your shoulder, the average weight of a human head weighs between 10-12 pounds. However, as you bend your head forward and down, this weight tends to increase due to gravity and causes stress. Research shows leaning your head forward to 15 degrees will put an additional 15 pounds on the cervical spine. Similarly leaning at 30 degrees will put 40 pounds and 45 degrees will put 49 pounds on average. While most of us usually bend our heads to almost 60 degrees while using our phone, we are putting almost 60-70 pound weight (roughly equals to an eight-year-old child hanging around your neck) on our neck (cervical spines).
So what does it mean? You are putting a lot of stress on your spine and neck, that may lead to misalignments. Over time, this constant pressure can lead to pinched nerves, metabolic problems, spine injury, disc herniation and degeneration.
Tight Deep Neck Flexors
You need flexible and strong neck muscles to support the weight of your head, maintain a straight posture and minimize strain on your cervical spine. Spending hours a day staring at down your cell screens put a constant strain on your neck that can lead to tight deep flexors of the neck (front of your neck). It is due to the fact that the soft tissues and joints in the neck are delicate and are not designed to hunch forward or remain flexed for a long period of time. Holding unnatural positions for a considerable time can cause stiffness and muscle soreness and lead to loss of curvature in your neck as well as neck and upper back pain and headaches.
Fighting Back: life hack against text neck
Normal daily activities will not give you sufficient stretching of the neck muscles, therefore you need to learn to do specific neck exercises with the help of your health professional to avoid possible muscle pulls, strains and other neck injuries. To relieve a tight, sore neck the following exercises are recommended by orthopedics, chiropractors and fitness trainers.
Seated Neck Release - This exercise specifically stretches and strengthens the side muscles of your neck.
Seated Clasping Neck Stretch – It uses your hands to stretch neck muscles and your upper back.
Grounded Tipover Tuck – This is more of a relaxing exercise to stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. It can also help relieve headaches and drowsiness.
Seated Heart Opener - This exercise stretches and strengthens your neck, chest and shoulder muscles from the front.
Bridge – This classic yoga pose allows you to lift your hips as high as you can to stretch and support the back of your neck.
In a modern era of advanced technology, it is almost impossible to avoid smartphones and other electronic devices that cause these issues. However, there are a few easy steps you can take to avoid this strain on your neck, spine and brain. These include;
⦁ You should take frequent breaks while using any electronic device, especially your mobile phones that emit damaging electromagnetic waves. The time recommended by several scientists ranges from 10-15 minutes after every hour.
⦁ Be mindful of your posture; keep your ears over your shoulders and your neck straight.
⦁ Try to make a habit of looking down at your mobile screen with your eyes without bending your neck.
⦁ Practice muscle strengthening exercises that will help correct your neck posture such as pushups, chin tuck, head lift, and shoulder circles.