Mobile Phone: The Innocent Back Killer

The mobile phone went through many years of dieting, going from 900g to under 200g (an iPhone X comes in at 174g, while a Samsung S8+ is 173g). Along with its sophistication, it is easy and addictive to spend a lot of time on your phone. Despite the drastic reduction in weight, the modern mobile phones still weigh heavily on our necks and backs.

Text Neck

Most of us interact with our phones with our torso erect, which means that we have to tilt our necks down just to use it. Holding this position is like holding a 2kg dumbbell away from you, parallel to the floor: it seems light at first, but hold it long enough and you’ll feel the strain on your shoulder.

Here’s a little math for you. The average adult head weighs between 4.5kg and 5.5kg. Tilting your head 15 degrees increases the load that your neck bears to approximately 12kg. The strain, which increases with the tilting angle, is almost equivalent to an 18kg head at 30 degrees, 22kg at 45 degrees, and 27kg at 60 degrees! Imagine your neck carrying that amount of weight for about 3 hours each day!

Call Neck

Another precarious position we like to put our necks and spines in is sandwiching our mobile phones between our ears and shoulder, which is what I’d like to call a “call neck”. While engaging in a phone conversation, many of us like to free up our hands to do other things such as surfing the internet, taking a phone order, filing your nails and so on. But, as we said before, it puts your neck in a risky position.

What’s The Big Deal?

According to a study done by Dr Kenneth K. Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, tilting the head and rounding the shoulders forward puts you in poor posture and can lead to a loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine. Being in this position for an extended period “leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine, and may result in “early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

In simple terms, using your phone with your head at an angle may lead to back issues such as slipped disc.

What can you do about it?

Stop using your phone!

Remove the source of the problem and you will have no problem! But of course, I know that it’s not possible. Everyone has got to check their Facebook or Instagram once in a while, right?

Raise your phone to eye-level

It looks like you’re taking a selfie or a photograph of someone, but this position puts your neck, shoulder and spine in a neutral position. The only strain you’ll experience is on your shoulder muscles (aka deltoids), which you’ll be sculpting indirectly as a result of assuming this position. Besides, the muscle ache you’ll be experiencing soon will limit your phone use.

Elbows on the table

An easy way to raise your phone to eye level without tiring any muscle is to sit at a table and put your elbows on it. Now you can use your phone to your heart’s content.

Lie down

This position should be a hot favourite. Lie on your back with your knees raised and feet flat on the ground. Hover your phone over your face and tap away. Note that your shoulders will get tired after a while, but there are solutions that you can consider though. But don’t doze off! You might injure your face.

Suspect that your mobile habits have already resulted in “text neck”? Come in for a consultation to understand more about that neck ache or backache that you have and how chiropractic treatments can help your condition.

Cover image: Pexels

Dr. Jenny Li
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Dr. Jenny Li

Founding Chiropractor at Singapore Pain Solutions
Dr. Jenny Li is America trained chiropractor who specialises in sports injury, sports performance, and spinal health. She graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in United States, upon completion of the her post graduate program she practiced in Hong Kong and currently is practicing in Singapore. Dr. Jenny believes optimal sports performance starts with structure of human body as she helps her patients to achieve breakthroughs in their performance by choosing chiropractic. She is also the contributing writer for local online health and lifestyle magazine Soulscape.

Dr. Jenny Li is the appointed chairman of Medical Committee for NABBA WFF Singapore.
Dr. Jenny Li
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