By James Schofield
With the ever-increasing use of smart cell phones there has been a corresponding increase of users having neck and upper back pain, headaches and upper extremity discomfort. This article will explain why cellular phone usage can be deleterious to one’s health. It will also give information to counteract harmful musculoskeletal health effects.
An interesting research study published in Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, June 2017 noted that researchers investigating changes in posture and muscle activation among 18 participants while interacting with their electronic device. The results revealed that smart phone use induced a more flexed posture in the neck and trunk compared with desktop computer use. The researchers also found that participants began to experience neck and back pain if they used their smart phone for longer than 15 minutes. The findings suggest that healthcare providers should consider the influences of smart phone use in posture and muscle activity in the evaluation, intervention, and prevention of neck and trunk conditions.
It has been noted that the human head weighs about as much as a bowling ball which is 10 to 14 pound range. If the head is directly over our upper body its weight is tolerated well and does cause discomfort to the neck and upper back. However, if the head is in a flexed, forward position for extended periods of time causes the muscles of the back of the neck and upper back contract and stresses in the spinal joints. Over time this causes irritation to the structures. This can result in neck and upper back pain, tension headaches and pain of the upper extremities radiates from the nerves of the neck and upper back.
As of the research study noted earlier there is less of a forward head posture/flexed neck and trunk when using a desktop computer compared to cell phone usage. Thus, if a person has access to a desktop computer would be wise to use it versus using a smart phone.
If one has to use a cell phone for an extended period of time it is wise to use the 20-20-20 rule. This simply means that after 20 minutes of smart cell phone use a person should stand straight up for 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. This will break the cycle of prolonged poor posture. Of course, straightening up more frequently for longer periods of time would certainly be even better.
If a person has ongoing neck pain, upper back discomfort, radiating pain into the upper extremities and/or is having tension headaches the condition may have gotten to the point where professional care is indicated. In this case a wise decision would be to consult with a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractors are specialists who are trained to diagnose what is causing serious musculoskeletal problems and have the ability to render safe, effective treatment that does not involve surgery or harmful pain medications like opioids.
It is best to take proactive steps when using cellular phones to avoid musculoskeletal discomfort. However if accumulated stress has caused significant acute or chronic discomfort it is best to seek professional chiropractic help.