Humans were designed to stand upright. And yet, too many of us are spending a large portion of our day staring at a tiny screen, causing us to strain and position our head forward. People spend an average of 2-4 hours each day with their neck bent at this unnatural angle while shooting off emails or texts. This forward head posture that is assumed while using our mobile devices or smartphones is not the natural position that our neck was designed to be in.
The human head weighs on average between 12-15 pounds, but the more forward your head is in your posture can cause this to increase up to 5X! Can you imagine walking around with a 60 pound weight tied to your head? Let me explain it to you this way…picture a waiter or waitress carrying a tray, and on this tray is a bowling ball (a bowling ball on average weighs 8-10 lbs for a woman, and 15-16 lbs for a man, just about the weight of a human head!). But here’s the trouble…the bowling ball wants to keep sliding to the front of the tray. If we think about the server’s arm as being analogous to our neck, and the bowling ball sliding forward on the tray as equating to our head, just how tired is that server’s arm going to be by the end of the day? Well, that’s what your neck can feel like with a forward head posture!
So what happens if we do nothing? Well, the joints and muscles in your neck will be stretched to their end range, causing muscle tightness, muscle soreness, neck pain, and potentially headaches. If not addressed, the results are cumulative and will lead to loss of motion of the vertebrae in your spine and put increased stress on your discs and nerves.
But herein lies the problem…think this forward head posture is just going to affect our neck and head? Think again! Our bodies are amazing at compensating for deficiencies, so any time you have increased pressure on the head and neck, you can almost be assured that there will be issues elsewhere on your body. I’ve seen this all too often with forward head posture leading to other things such as:
Limited ability to raise your arms overhead
Tightness in your upper back (thoracic spine)
Excessive extended posture of your lower back
Pelvis tilted forward
So what else can a forward head posture lead to? Conceivably issues anywhere else in the body, including (but not limited to) neck pain, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injuries, low back pain, tight hip muscles, and tight hamstrings. If you look at young kids nowadays, many of them are unable to touch their toes! Why? I think a lot has to do with that forward head posture that leads to postural adaptations as a result of excessive cell phone usage!
So what can we do? Well, chances are you’re not going to stop texting or sending emails via your smartphone! But there are some things we can do to minimize the effect of our phones on our posture. Some beneficial tips include:
Bring your cell phone to your eyes, not your eyes to your phone–Try holding your phone close to your body and at eye level. To do this, keep your elbows close to your body and bend them so your phone is now at eye level.
If your phone or device has a dictation program, use it!
Call or use voice messaging instead of writing lengthy text messages
If sitting (in a chair or on the couch), place a pillow in your lap to support your arms and raise the phone closer to eye level.
Perform chin tuck exercises throughout the day–A chin tuck is a simple exercise that can counteract poor posture. With your head level, simply pull your chin back as if you were trying to make a double chin. Hold 2-3 seconds, and repeat 5-10 times (or more as needed).
Smartphones and other electronic devices are killing our posture by way of emails and text messages. This can lead to many unexpected issues due to faulty postural changes. Just keep some of the above tips in mind throughout your day to help prevent unwanted problems down the road.
If you or someone you know is experiencing neck, shoulder, or back pain, don’t wait to take action. Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help you. Don’t delay–schedule now!