Your Smart Phone Could Be Rapidly Aging Your Spine


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.

"Kristi’s weekly bootcamp has truly gotten me out of my comfort zone. I started attending with my family a few months ago. My first couple of times I was so ore! At times I became discouraged, but I just pushed through! I keep coming every week I am available. There’s no shaming if you must miss a week. You can even have someone go on your behalf if you miss a week. Since starting Kristi’s bootcamp I’ve said yes to other fitness opportunities I would have previously turned down. I now workout EVERYDAY and I’ve lost over 20 lbs since I first started coming. Thanks Kristi and to my family for introducing mw to this awesome bootcamp!"

− Amanda

"I’ve had 4 surgeries with different physical therapy clinics and this was my favorite. I felt comfortable and felt like I mattered to my PT which was a good feeling. My progress was as I had expected and any time I had a question or concern it was always answered and my PT adjusted. If it needed to be to avoid the pain I had I didn’t feel pressured to have more PT appointments or pressured to do workouts that aggravated my pain. Thank you for your help! I think offering stem and ultrasound for every patient will be really beneficial. Great experience overall."

− A.S.

"I’m really glad I am going to A2. My PT Danny is very knowledgeable and courteous. He pin-pointed the area affected in my hip and back. We are working to improve my strength, range of motion and ultimately lessen my pain with Danny’s wide range of stretches and strength techniques to improve my quality of life. So far in the three weeks that I’ve been enrolled I’m very impressed with A2 Physical Therapy. Thanks Danny!"

− Sean