Is your cell phone causing neck and shoulder pain?

by | Dec 21, 2021

We live in a world filled with technology. Most of us can’t go a day without using any form of it, but what if the technology we’re using that is helping to make our lives easier and more efficient is having some negative effects on our body? Let’s talk about the most commonly used piece of technology today, your cell phone.

Cellphones have changed a lot over the years. Who remembers those tiny flip phones or the indestructible Nokia’s? Kids now a days won’t have to deal with hitting the number 7 four times to enter the letter “s” in a text message. Long gone are those days, and the days of cell phones being tiny. With larger screens and more functions, our cell phones are daily link to the outside world. We answer emails, check the latest trends on social media, order pizza, have video calls with loved ones, and so much more all from the palm of our hands. A study recently found that the average person spends over 3 hours on their cell phone per day! Yes, you read that correctly, 3 hours! Just imagine all the time spent on this one device. So how can your cell phone cause your neck and shoulder pain?

When we use our cell phones, we tend to look down at it. This causes us to have a forward head carriage, meaning we increase the angle of our head relative to its neutral position. The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Let me ask you this hypothetical question; If I were to have you hold a bowling ball for 15 minutes, how would you hold it? Would you hold it closer or further away from your body? The answer is closer to your body. When our head starts to move forward there is an increase of pressure on the base of our neck. A mere 30 degrees of forward head carriage can cause an additional 40 pounds of pressure on our neck! Over time this can lead to cervical spine mobility which can cause disc heights to shorten, osteoarthritis, and facet degeneration. Once this occurs, the nerves that exit our cervical spine can become irritated and refer pain into the shoulder or arms. This is where the term “text neck” or “tech neck” comes from. How do we correct this?

The best thing to do is when using your phone for screen time, hold it directly in front of your eyes and make sure you’re sitting/standing upright. This will help prevent the forward head carriage. When using the phone for long periods of time, it’s best to use a headset so you won’t have to tilt your head or use your arms to make the phone call. Strengthening your back muscles, especially the rhomboids and middle trapezius will help prevent your shoulders from “rounding forward.” If you’re still experiencing neck or shoulder discomfort after trying these simple remedies, I suggest seeing your local health care provider so they can do an evaluation and find the root cause of your discomfort.

References

  1. Zalani, Rochi. “Average Screen Time: Statistics 2021.” ECM, 5 Nov. 2021, https://elitecontentmarketer.com/screen-time-statistics/.
  2. Hansraj, Kenneth K. “Academic Search Engine for Paper.” Scinapse, https://www.scinapse.io/papers/53370736.

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