The idea for this article comes from a study by Dr. Kenneth K Hansraj that has been recognized and published worldwide. The main focus is on the use of handheld devices and the worsening posture in the cervical (neck) spine. Most people will hold their devices out in front of them and flex their neck forward in a severe flexion state causing bad posture.
According to the study, people on average spend two to four hours a day with their heads tilted, reading and texting on their smart phones and mobile devices. May not sound like much but if you add that up over a year it becomes 700-1400 hours of bad posture. Also take into consideration, the average head in a neutral position weighs ten to twelve pounds. If you flex your head forward only 15 degrees, that weight soars to 27 pounds of stress, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
Prolonged bad posture can lead to loss of curvature in the cervical spine. The normal curvature in the spine is lordotic. In order to understand what this means, think of a hunting bow as in bow and arrow. The frame of the bow is the curve expected in a normal cervical spine and the string of the bow is the opposite and is an example of a bad postured neck. The curve begins to straighten out when loss of curvature occurs. This leads to extreme increase of stress over the cervical spine. The ligaments are the first to see damage, followed by the musculature, and then the cervical discs. Persistent stress across these structures leads to wear, tear, and degeneration.
Technology is certainly not going away, so what can we do to fix this problem? Posture is the root of the issue and it’s very important to utilize and maintain good posture. Some recommendations per Dr. Hansraj include; bring your ears above your shoulders, open your chest by retracting your scapulae (shoulder blades), keep your head up, raise the device up and look down with your eyes, and lastly maintain your natural alignment. Also, think about putting the phone/mobile device down when it’s not necessary. If your leisure time includes scrolling the internet and social media for entertainment, change it up. Get outside, increase your activity, go for a bike ride, head to the gym, get out and experience the world instead of reading about it on your mobile device. If you do have neck pain, come see us at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute.
About The Author: Derek N. Morrow, PA-C is a physician assistant with Prairie Spine and Pain Institute. Derek works in the clinic setting as a health care provider seeing patients. He is also utilized in the operating room as a first assist in surgery. In the clinic setting, his key function is to diagnose new patients and conduct their initial treatment. He works directly with patients to establish customized treatment programs and to monitor their progress. He also conducts history and physical evaluations for many patients. He performs many office procedures including trigger point injections, large joint injections, and bursa injections, all with the help of ultrasound guidance. He is radiologically trained, and uses his knowledge of X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, CT, and EMG-Nerve Conduction Studies to establish a diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment. Derek is surgically trained and plays a vital role in the procedures we perform at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute.