The Washington Post published an interesting article last week on how cellphones are changing our posture. Cell phones, and more importantly, smart phones and texting, are making a significant impact on our posture and overall health. We spend a large portion of our day starring at a tiny little screen, causing us to strain and position our head forward.
Ready to be amazed? How about these for statistics:
- Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 send and receive on average 126 text messages a day, according to a study published in 2013
- This has increased 16% in only 2 years since another study published in 2011
Cell Phones Are Killing Our Posture
The Washington Post article goes on to discuss that the forward head posture that is caused by looking at a small screen close to your face, such as when texting, places an enormous amount of strain on your neck.
The human head weighs about 12 pounds on average, but the more forward your head in your posture can cause this to increase 5X. Imagine walking around with a 60 pound weight tied to your head!
This causes the muscles and joints in your neck to be stretched to their end range, which causes muscles tightness, muscle soreness, neck pain, and even headaches. Overtime, the results are cumulative and cause lose of motion of the vertebra in your spine and stress on your discs and nerves.
It isn’t that simple, however, this is impacting more than just neck pain.
We talk about this a lot at Champion, but the body is really great at compensation and finding the path of least resistance. So, anytime you have increased flexion of your neck, it’s going to have an impact elsewhere on your body. In my experience, I see these frequently together:
- Forward head posture
- Limited arm elevation
- Tightness in your thoracic spine
- Excessive extended posture of your low back
- Anterior tilting of your pelvic
These can cause problems all over your body, including neck pain, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injuries, low back pain, tight hip flexors, and tight hamstrings, just to name a few. What amazes me the most is that young kids these days, including athletes, can’t even touch their toes anymore! I blame this on this phenomenon and postural adaptations that occur from our cell phone usage.
What To Do About It
So, I know you aren’t going to stop text messaging as much, I get it. Neither am I. But there are things we can do to minimize the effect of our phones on our posture. I think there are two really easy tips to implement:
1. Bring your cell phone to your eyes, not your eyes to your phone
Taking a huge step back, cell phones don’t actually cause any of these issues. You do when you strain to see the screen and move your head (and eyes) closer to the screen. This causes forward head posture and the ripple effect discussed above. Instead, try bringing your phone closer to you eyes.
2. Reverse your posture frequently throughout the day
Probably the most important strategy is to reverse your posture frequently throughout the day. The body adapts to the positions you place it in and needs to reminded to not to lose your normal posture. For people sitting at a desk all day, we tell them to get up and walk around frequently. For those texting, you need to reverse your forward head posture.
There is one easy exercise we use all the time, the shoulder W with a chin tuck that I discussed on my website at MikeReinold.com:
This is an easy exercise to work in throughout the day when your neck starts getting tired. We try to incorporate exercises like this into all of our strength programs at Champion PT and Performance.
Cell phones and text messaging are killing our posture and causing many problems, keep these statistics in mind and try to be proactive with your posture throughout the day.