Smartphones can be a pain in the neck

05 Dec 2014

As featured on the Disruptive Views blog

If you thought smartphones were bad for your health you’d be right according to a study in Surgical Technology International. But not because they strain your eyes or cause you to walk off footpaths into oncoming traffic blindly answering Twitter and text messages or playing games.

The real danger comes from tilting your head towards that screen whilst sitting. Believe it or not, this alone can put up to 27kg of weight on your neck and the incremental stress experienced can lead to “early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries”, the report said.

“People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smartphones and devices,” said Dr Kenneth Hansraj, Chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine in the study. “Cumulatively this is 700 to 1400 hours a year of excess stress on the spine.”

The amount of stress a person’s spine is subject to when they tilt their heads forward 15 to 60 degrees. “An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees,” the study said.

Dr Hansraj advises that individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and avoid spending hours each day hunched over. Maintaining a neutral spine – with ears aligned with the shoulders and shoulders open – not only reduces wear and tear on the spine, it has been associated with a decrease in cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress.

Presumably, you should hold the smartphone up in front of your head. This will certainly ease the pressure on your neck but probably give you repetitive strain injury on your arm or elbow instead!

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