How Mobile Devices are Wrecking Our Spines

Nearly everyone has a smartphone or mobile device these days, and while there is some merit to this technology by keeping us more connected – at least virtually – it is wreaking havoc on our bodies. 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 shoulders rounded. They typically hold the device either at chest level or waist level meaning that their hands are together, forming an almost crouch position.  Others might be more conscious of their posture and hold their device closer to eye level, but this can still cause issues in the shoulders and arms.  Let’s take a look at some of the common issues that come with bad smartphone posture.

Text Neck

The more you tilt your head downward (just as you do when looking at a smartphone), the more pounds of pressure you put on your neck and back. Your spine supports the weight of your head. The more it is thrust forward, due to slouching and looking down, the more tension is put on your spine and supporting muscles and the heavier your head gets. Doctors are seeing many young people with this problem, some even as young as 8 years old.

Text Neck is characterized by tightness or tension in the neck and shoulders as well as the upper back between the shoulder blades. Some patients report pain while others feel pressure, and others feel tightness. Sometimes the pain or numbness and tingling will spread to the shoulders, arms, and hands.  This referred pain can be caused by the tension in the muscles as well as tension or pinching of nerves exiting the spine.

This Can Lead to Lower Back Pain

As your neck struggles to support your head which is rolled forward, it stands to reason that you will experience back pain. In fact, both upper and lower back pain has been attributed to smartphone use.

Think about the muscles that run along your spine. They help stabilize and support your head. When you hunch over you strain those muscles in your upper back. What you may not realize is that similar strain is being put on the muscles in your lower back as well.

Headaches from Tension in Neck and Back

One of the most common ailments associated with mobile device usage is headaches. These headaches can come from tension in the neck, strained muscles in the back, or overworked muscles through the hand and arm into the shoulder. It can also come from eyestrain caused by staring at the screen for extended amounts of time, looking at the tiny text.  Over time, with repetitive device usage, vertebrae can shift out of alignment (this is called a subluxation) putting pressure on delicate nerves which can cause neck pain and headaches even when you aren’t using your smartphone.  The only way to correct these subluxations is through a chiropractic adjustment.

Forearm and Wrist Pain

Even the way you hold your phone in your hands can cause problems in your neck, upper back and arms.   Tennis elbow isn’t just for tennis players anymore!  Since you keep your arm in one position for long periods of time while gripping your phone or to type on your phone, your muscles never have a chance to relax.   The constant contraction can cause tendonitis which might even be diagnosed as tennis elbow. If you are experiencing pain, sometimes shooting, in your elbow or wrist, your smartphone use may be the culprit.

Blackberry Thumb

The muscles in your hand are very small but they can cause you a great deal of pain if you frequently use a mobile device. As you type on the keyboard of your smartphone, it can cause problems with tendons and ligament as well as the muscles.

This repetitive stress of the body is caused daily by people who stay hunched over their small phone screen. The repetitive movement of your thumb as it manipulates the device can cause inflammation in the thumb and hand.

There is no doubt that mobile device usage is becoming a serious problem in our society today. While there are the people who text while driving or while walking, posing a significant threat to their own and others’ safety, what they are doing to their own bodies is enough to cause alarm.

Chiropractic care along with physiotherapies can reduce inflammation, reduce muscle tension, and correct subluxations to ease the pain and reverse a good portion of the damage that has been done.  A focused effort made to pull people out of their mobile devices, at least a portion of the time, to prevent and minimize the structural spinal damage they are doing to themselves.

Dr. Hoch (pronounced Hoke), is a 1988 Graduate of Peotone High School and a 1990 Graduate of Joliet Junior College. She Received both her B.S. in Human Biology (1991) and her Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.) (1993) from The National College of Chiropractic in Lombard, IL. She also received her graduate and post-graduate certifications in Acupuncture from NCC. This article is copyrighted and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written permission of Dr. Hoch.

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