Is your phone killing your back and neck?
Are you reading this on your phone right now? If so, you might be doing the “smartphone slouch”. You’re tilting your head forward and downward to hunch over your phone. You may not know this, but the human head weighs somewhere around 10 to 12 pounds. But when you tilt your head forward it can cause strain on your back, neck and shoulders that is equal to you having a much heavier head. How much heavier? Well at 15 degrees of forward tilt it equates to your head weighing 27 pounds. At 30 degrees forward, the strain on your neck equals a 40 pound head. A 60 degree tilt is the same as if you had a 60 pound head! That is some serious strain!
As you tilt your head, you also move your shoulders forward into a rounded position, which is another aspect of poor posture. All this excess strain creates extra wear and tear on the structures of your neck, upper spine and back. The average person is on a computer or smart device between 2-4 hours every day. That’s a lot of potential pain and strain.
What Can I do?
So how do you get your work done and use your phone and save your back and neck? First, if you have to do extended work, don’t do it on your phone. It’s much better if you do long tasks on a desktop computer. If you have to do it on a laptop, make sure you’re positioned where you can have good posture. Then, when you do have to use your phone, don’t hunch over it. Instead, lift your phone up higher rather than tilting your head and rounding your shoulders forward.
Being aware of your posture is a great first step to relieving the pain of living life in the age of the smart phone. But it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to have some pain and strain from time to time. Here are a couple of things you can do to bring some much-needed relief to your upper back and neck.
First is the scap squeeze. It gets its name from your scapula, also known as your shoulder blades. The goal is to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Sit or stand up tall with your arms at your sides. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down, not shrugged. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 6 seconds, then relax.
Second, a lat pull down can help correct your posture and strengthen the muscles that will keep you from straining. On a lat pulldown machine you’ll want to grab the bar with your hands shoulder width apart and be sure to pull the bar down to your chest and not behind your head. You can see here and example of proper technique. The goal isn’t to do this exercise with the most weight possible, but to get good steady repetitions in that will engage the muscles that help your posture.
Staying mindful of your posture, along with these simple stretches and exercises will help you beat the smartphone slouch.
Written by Tom Farnsworth PT