• The Impact of Smart Phones on Neck Posture & 2 Simple Exercises to Relieve Neck Fatigue

    February 05, 2018 | By Tony Yong

    Introduction

    Our necks take on a lot of stress during our lives. Whether from carrying groceries, holding our kids, to carrying backpacks or being weighed down with purses/shoulder bags. And for good measure, add in the hours staring at computer screens or hunched over reading or texting on smart phones. It’s little wonder that our necks start to complain a little… or a lot!

    Technology’s Impact on Posture

    Technology is changing our posture. People on average spend about 2 to 4 hours per day with their heads tilted forward reading or texting on their smart phones. That results in anywhere from 700 to 1,400 additional hours per year with one’s neck in a less than ideal position. And our kids are not immune from this as they may spend up to an additional 5,000 hours in poor posture as a result of increased technology usage (Hansraj).

    There’s now a new term to add to your lexicon… text neck. It’s what happens when we’re hunched over our smart phones and tablets for far too many hours in the day. When we’re looking down our neck has to work harder to support our head. The average adult head weighs an average of 10-12 pounds. In a recent study, researchers (see link at bottom of post) evaluated neck strain with our heads in varying positions of forward bend. Here’s what they found:

    • Tilting the head forward 15 degrees: forces seen by the neck increases to 27 pounds!
    • Tilting the head forward 30 degrees: forces seen by the neck increases to 40 pounds!
    • Tilting the head forward 45 degrees: forces seen by the neck increases to 49 pounds!
    • Tilting the head forward 60 degrees: forces seen by the neck increases to 60 pounds!
    Source: https://www.phschiropractic.com/webres/File/iTrac%20Surgical%20Technology%20Doc.pdf

    Muscles Change with Posture

    It’s easy to forget that there are a number of shoulder muscles that attach to the neck joints, which can become fatigued and strained when sustaining a head forward posture for long periods of time.

    With these sustained postures, shoulder and neck muscles can shorten and others get lengthened. With the head forward posture, we get an exaggerated curve at the base of the head which shortens those small neck muscles, while stretching out the lower neck which sits in a more flexed position over an extended period of time.

    2 Simple Ways to Find Neck Relief

    There are a couple of ways that you can easily give yourself relief of neck pain and fatigue:

    1. Neck Distraction with Towel

    The first exercise is a simple resting posture using a towel. It helps to decompress your cervical spine and gives your neck muscles a much needed break. First you roll up a beach towel. Make sure it’s nice and thick. Then gently wrap around your neck and squeeze together the ends. This squeezing will tighten the towel slightly and elevate your head from your shoulders, providing a gentle traction to your neck. Lay back in a chair or on your couch and allow your neck muscles to relax. You can rest your neck in this position for easily 5-10 minutes and can repeat as needed. It’s important to remember when you’re squeezing the towel, not to pull your head forward.

    2. Chin Nod Stretch

    The next exercise is a gentle range-of-motion exercise that will help to reverse some of the shortening of your neck muscles that take place when you have a head forward posture. Simply, lay on the floor on a yoga mat. If you find yourself uncomfortable and need your head elevated slightly, use a folded towel or reasonably flat pillow. Now gently move your head in a ‘nodding yes’ motion. You should feel the back of your head slide along the floor/towel. It should be done slowly and with little effort. Repeat 15-20x and hold the chin for 5 seconds.

     

    Are you wanting to feel better and move better?

    Book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our 6 clinics located throughout Edmonton & Sherwood Park including Riverbend, Meadowlark, Belvedere, Namao, Sherwood Park or our newest clinic in West Henday.

    Sources: 

    Hansraj, K.  Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head. Accessible here