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

Our necks take on much stress during our lives. Whether from carrying groceries, holding our kids, 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 smartphones. It’s little wonder 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 smartphones. 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 extra 5,000 hours in poor posture due to increased technology usage (Hansraj).

A new term to add to your lexicon is text neck, what happens when we’re hunched over our smartphones and tablets for far too many hours in the day. When looking down, our necks must work harder to support our heads. The average adult head weighs an average of 10-12 pounds. In a recent study, researchers (see link at the 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 increase to 27 pounds!
  • Tilting the head forward 30 degrees: forces seen by the neck increase to 40 pounds!
  • Tilting the head forward 45 degrees: forces seen by the neck increase to 49 pounds!
  • Tilting the head forward 60 degrees: forces seen by the neck increase 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 several shoulder muscles attach to the neck joints, which can become fatigued and strained when sustaining a head-forward posture for long periods.

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

2 Simple Ways to Find Neck Relief

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

1. Neck Distraction with a 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 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 5-10 minutes and 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 following exercise is a gentle range-of-motion exercise that will help reverse some of the shortenings of your neck muscles when you have a head-forward posture. Lay on the floor on a yoga mat. If you are uncomfortable and need your head slightly elevated, 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, which should be done slowly and with little effort. Repeat 15-20x and hold the chin for 5 seconds.

Do you want to feel better and move better?

Please book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our clinics in Edmonton, including RiverbendBelvedereNamaoWest Henday or our newest clinic in Southgate Centre.

Sources: 

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