"Cell phone neck"- How Technology can hurt us

By: Jessica Stahl PTA
Holt Clinic
Orthopaedic Rehab Specialists - Holt Clinic

As technology advances to improve our life style, it can also result in negative side effects on your cervical spine. New studies have found that looking down at a computer screen or a smartphone can add up to 60 pounds of pressure on a person's spine. People of all ages spend countless hours with their head bent forward looking at electronic devices, not knowing they are adding stress to their spine. This stress causes wear and tear or degeneration of the spine leading to possible neck pathologies. Dr. Hansraj, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon, performed a study on the Assessment of Stresses on the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of Head, which was published in Surgical Technology International. Hansraj states in his article, “Your spine is at its happiest when your ears fall on the same plane as your shoulder, and your shoulder blades are retracted. Without these adjustments, you put added stress on your spine.” This study also calculated how stressful varying degrees of the curvature put on a person's spine.

s a Physical Therapist Assistant, I have had several patients come through the door with neck and shoulder pain often associated with poor posture. Whether you are at your desk working on a computer, spending time on your smartphone, or reading a book on your tablet, trying to maintain proper neck posture will help to reduce your chances of developing neck problems. Another way to alleviate pain and pressure on your neck, is to practice simple neck stretches and exercises that help to support good posture. These stretches and exercises include:

• Upper Trap stretch- tilt your ear towards your shoulder with your face forward, holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds and perform 2 times a day on each side. For another pressure stretch, simply apply pressure on the top of your head in the direction you are tilting your ear toward.

• Pec Stretch- find a doorway and place your arms in the shape of a “W” on the door frame. Lean your chest forward through the doorway. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and perform 2 times a day.

• Scap Squeezes- starting with your shoulders in an upright position, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds before relaxing. Perform this exercise 20-30 times.

• Chin Tucks- Starting in a neutral position, pull your chin and head straight back and hold for 5 seconds. You will feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Relax your chin back forward to a neutral position.

Paying special attention to your posture, coupled with stretching and exercises, will help to avoid poor postural habits and reduce your chances of developing chronic neck problems.