In the age of cell phones, Kindles, and iPads, we are no stranger to warnings about spending too much time with our tech. While we know these are beneficial tools, using them at the neglect of proper posture can do significant physiological damage. “Smartphone slouching” is not just an alliterative term for avoiding talking to people in grocery store lines. It is a prevalent issue that can amount to spinal damage such as disc degeneration or nerve complications.
On average, American adults spend more than 3.5 hours on their phones each day. Many also work hunched over computers for 40+ hours a week. This can lead to squinting or other straining of the eyes, which has been researched thoroughly, and it often leaves people slouching for extended periods of time. This old problem with posture, renewed with our dependence on screen-specific technology, has been coined “tech neck” or “text neck.”
Giving the condition a cutesy rhyming name may be doing the population in general a disservice, for the spinal adjustments that come from smartphone slouching can actually be quite serious. Poor posture can lead to chronic pain all down the spine, which in turn can lead to other conditions like heartburn and problems in the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems.
In a Slump
Why is smartphone slouching so bad? The body, for all its resilience, is actually quite sensitive to even the slightest misalignment. The problem isn’t just when you’re scrolling through social media: any time the body stays in a less-than-optimal position, your spine is strained. People need to be aware of their spinal positions as they sit at their desks or on the couch, as they curl up with a book or sit down for dinner.
The body will naturally try to compensate when the spine is out of alignment, but unfortunately this can lead to more health problems. If you find yourself walking with rounded shoulders and short steps, your head and neck bent down, it is well-past time to seek help for your posture. Whether you catch yourself smartphone slouching or not, posture improvement is critical for overall wellness.
Cell phones get the brunt of the attention for bad posture because we spend so much time looking at them, and when we do, it is easy to get lost in what we are doing, not giving thought to our posture. Often our objective in being on our phones is to disconnect, to relax, but it is important to not let that downtime hurt our long-term spinal health.
An Extra 60 Pounds
The human head weighs, on average, about 10 pounds. Your spine already supports what is effectively a bowling ball every minute of every day. Your arms would have a difficult time doing that comfortably. If that is not was not enough, each time you tilt your head forward or bend it down, the force of gravity pulls at your head, compounding its weight as felt by your neck.
Effectively, for every inch you incline your head forward, 10 pounds of pressure is added to your cervical spine. That is the rough equivalent of a four-year-old child sitting on your shoulders the entire time you’re checking your Bitcoin or Instagram. If you tilt your head 60 degrees, that amounts to an extra 60 pounds of force on your neck.
Fighting Back Against Smartphone Slouching
Damage to the spine caused by bad posture is usually caused by years of straining over computers and phones, depending on usage. The good news is that some such damage is reversible with proper care. Licensed chiropractors and other clinical professionals can give specific recommendations for how best to treat each case.
Tech neck and other posture problems can be treated with designated stretches and core strength training, but for lasting improvement, behavioral changes need to be adopted. Training exercises that mimic daily life can be helpful, but postural vigilance is the only preventative for further damage.
Those who work at a desk or spend significant time working at a computer should keep computer monitors at eye level, with both feet squarely on the floor. Standing desks are wonderful for improving posture. As a rule of thumb, if you spend lengthy periods of time looking at a screen, take frequent breaks to get up, stretch, and move around.
Correcting Posture at Utah Sports and Wellness
You do not have to figure out how to improve your posture on your own. Our team at Utah Sports and Wellness is here to help. With techniques like spinal decompression and massage, we can relieve pressure on your spine caused by smartphone slouching and help you find better patterns for spending time on your computer or phone.