Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days.
So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies? A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters—has on their cervical spines. With each degree that our heads flex forward (as we stare at a screen below eye level), the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (that weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds, according to the study.
How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with their heads tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines. As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pain has skyrocketed.
Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, physical therapists are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon, widely known as “text neck.” Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains. Scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist can help people learn how to interact with their devices without harming their spines. The PT will prescribe an at-home program that includes strategies and exercises that focus on preserving the spine and preventing longterm damage.
Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters, too. So next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.
"Dear Alika- I want to tell you how great A2 has been in helping me to succeed in getting better after my stroke. Your staff is not only knowledgeable but funny at the same time. They don’t make physical therapy seem tough; but they make it fun by teaching us the right way to stand, asking us how we are and encouraging us to reach our goals. My goal has always been to get back to “normal.” I appreciate all of your staff immensely. They are all great. You always have my recommendation for where to go for P.T."
"Last Sunday I played full court basketball for the first time in 15 years. I will qualify the contest by saying it happened on a court just out of the back door of an elder care center. The teams consisted of a 7 year old, an d8 year old, a young woman in flip-flops (I played in sandals), a woman who proudly stated she was 55 years old (I retorted with my age of 65), and a couple of other young guys that really played well. I ran the court, I played defense, blocked shots, made shots (missed a lot), got lots of rebounds, and talked a lot of smack while playing with a group of people a lot younger than me. I even made a behind the back-twisting fall-away shot, then fell and tumbled on the court. I jumped up and continued to play, and we played for about 45 minutes.
I attribute my ability to play this game that I love so much again to the excellent training receive from Kristy who is a trainer at A2 Physical Therapy. I have worked out and trained since I was very young. I played high school basketball, baseball, and I ran track. I spent 20 years in the Army with all the training requirements associated with that occupation. I played on community and city leagues, and I have trained with weights for many years. The training program Kristy has devised for me at A2 is rigorous, thorough, diverse, fun, challenging, and focused. She prepares workout plans that are age and fitness level appropriate. My work out now is so much different then it was when I first started. She both trains me individually and as a couple. I run, jump, stretch, lift, balance, squat, push, pull, and every other movement you can imagine. I look forward to going to my workout every time. Kristy is completely in charge of every workout. I am retired, and my training at A2 allows me to fill the need to accomplish something positive every day I work out. I am doing physical activity with ease that I would not have thought I would be able be able to accomplish at the age of 65 such as hiking on Mt Rainer and running 4 days per week. Kristy and A2 have really changed my life…"
"Working with Kristi has been an amazing and rewarding experience. I started with the goal to lose weight and gain strength and after a few months she has helped me to understand what it means to live a healthy and well-rounded life. She not only provides motivation in the gym, but she is a great support system emotionally. She knows her stuff when it relates to exercises and the body. I appreciate how she brings variety to our workouts while also keeping us safe. If I could I would workout with Kristi multiple times per week."