Do hand held devices contribute to spinal damage?

The world is advancing at an alarming rate and with it, the technology is getting better and better. As time goes by, we find ourselves more reliant on our hand-held and mobile devices. Although these devices make our lives easier, they also contribute to spinal damage. Is my smartphone or tablet causing spinal damage? The short answer is yes.

How is my handheld device causing spinal damage?

Most hand-held devices are designed to be held in your hand, hence the name. However, they tend to have a little bit of weight to them which over the extended period of use can begin to feel heavy. This forces you to seek support for that arm holding the device, whether it be the arm of a chair or a table, or maybe your leg. This causes you to look down at the device. This puts you in forward head projection and causes your shoulders to round.  Holding this position for any amount of time can lead to a weakness in your posture. Have you ever seen Herbert, the old man from Family Guy when he’s walking with his walker? When you continually hold your device in such a way that it promotes poor spinal posture , you are in danger of ending up like him. 

Think about this. For every degree you tilt your head forward, you are adding a pound of pressure to your spine. The way most people hold their cell phones or tablets can put up to 60 additional pounds of pressure on your spine.

Our mobile devices have become a part of our everyday lives. Fun fact, we use our mobile phones around 5 hours per day! Regardless of the device, phone, tablet, or laptop, they all have the potential to put a strain on our spine. When you look at the posture that people assume when texting, reading email, or browsing social media while on their mobile device or smartphone, you will see their head bent forward and rounded shoulders. This is not only very bad for the spine but creates problems in other parts of the body. The good news is that there are things that can be done to decrease the effects of ‘text neck’.

Text Neck

As our heads tilt downward, like when we look at our phones, the perceived weight of our head increases which puts more pressure on the muscles and bones of our neck and back. This change in posture can lead to tightness and tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.  The spine supports the weight of our head and the more it is thrust forward, looking down, the heavier our head gets.

Forearm and Wrist Pain

The way we hold our phones in the hand can cause problems because, over long period of time, the muscles in out hands do not have time to relax. We have several muscles engaged to do this: the forearms, the wrist, and the neck.

If you are experiencing pain, sometimes shooting pain, in your elbow or wrist, your smartphone use may be the culprit. It is best to take frequent breaks from your phone and let the muscles in your hands, wrist, and forearms relax.

Sore Upper and Lower Back

The more strain and pressure your head exerts on your neck due to it being forward, the more common it is to experience back pain. In fact, both upper and lower back pain have been attributed to smartphone use.

The muscles that run along the spine help stabilize, control, and support the head. With forward head posture, you strain the muscles in your upper back and neck. What you may not realize is that similar strain is being put on the muscles in your lower back as well.

“Blackberry Thumb”

Using mobile devices can strain and eventually cause pain, in the small muscles of the hand. Using the keyboards on our smartphones or tablets, or playing games, can cause problems with the tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the hand, wrist, and forearm.

Headaches from Tension in Neck and Back

One of the most common symptoms associated with the use of mobile devices is headaches. These headaches often occur due to tension in the neck, strained muscles of the back or neck, or overworked muscles in the arms.Another common cause of these headache is eye strain due to string at the screen for extended amounts of time looking at small text.

But I need to multi-task!

In this busy world, we all tend to try to do several things at once. We talk on the phone while we’re typing on our laptop or tablet. If you’re not using your speakerphone function or your headphones, which the phone company so generously supplied to you, you may find yourself trying to wedge your phone in between your head and your shoulder in order to continue to work. This action can cause spinal damage as well. When you are constantly putting your neck in a side-bending position, you are causing misalignments (subluxation). This can lead to an imbalance in your muscles and you’ll notice your head will start to constantly tilt and eventually if untreated this could become permanent, 

What are some things I can do to prevent spinal damage from using my hand-held devices?

I know it might be hard but try to limit your use of your devices. If that is not an option, think about using your headphones when answering calls. Also, when texting or viewing social media, make sure that you are holding the phone up so that your neck is in a neutral position not tilted or bent forward. Doing these simple things can minimize neck and back pain as well as promote good spinal posture.

There is little doubt that mobile device usage has become a serious problem in our society today. Chiropractic care can ease the pain and aid the relaxation of muscles in the back and neck.

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