St. Vincent Charity Medical Center Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Matthew Levy writes a monthly column for the Cleveland Jewish News focusing on orthopedic issues, concerns and topics. One of his latest columns focuses on how hours spent hunched over a phone or tablet could be contributing to neck, shoulder and even lower back pain - and how to mitigate the impact of "text neck."
The full text of his column is below or available here.
by Dr. Matthew Levy
Smartphone technology has yielded numerous benefits to our professional and personal lives that most of us cannot imagine our day without one. But, did you know the hours you spend hunched over your phone or tablet could be contributing to neck, shoulder and even lower back pain?
As the percentage of us owning smartphone has grown from 35% to over 85% in the last 10 years, we have also seen a dramatic increase in “text neck,” the term commonly used to describe the condition arising through repetitive stress injury caused by leaning forward, shoulders rounded while reading and texting for prolonged periods on our phones and other technology.
A recent study found 79% of adults between 18 and 44 spend only two hours of their waking day without their cellphone in hand. This helps explain the growing number of patients presenting with neck, shoulder, arm and lower back pain – particularly among younger adults.
The human head weighs approximately 12 pounds. As we bend our neck forward, the force of the weight on our neck almost doubles for every 15 degrees. Studies show that the average person tilts their head forward 30 degrees to 45 degrees when using their smartphone, placing up to 40 pounds to 50 pounds of added force on our neck, back and shoulder muscles. That is the equivalent of hanging four gallons of paint around our necks most of the day.
Symptoms of the condition range from: stabbing, soreness and reduced mobility in the neck, upper back and shoulders; radiating pain down the shoulders and arms; rounded shoulders and muscle weakness in the shoulder muscles, rotator cuff and chest muscles; and headache.
Fortunately, a few simple steps can help most of us mitigate the impact of “text neck:”
• Raise the phone to eye level to prevent the head from tilting forward
Avoid prolonged use in one position. Take frequent breaks to perform neck and shoulder rolls to release the muscle tension
• Utilize proper posture with shoulders pulled back and ears directly above the shoulders
• Plan scheduled time throughout the day to check email and messages rather than being on the phone all day
• Exercise regularly to keep the neck, back and shoulder muscles strong and flexible.
We don’t have to give up the benefits of smartphone technology, but we can relieve some of the aches and pain, and even longer-term degeneration, by being “smart” with how and for how long we use our phones each day.
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
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