You see it every day. People standing, sitting or even walking with head bent, fingers flying across the screen of a smartphone or tablet. These devices that have become a fixture in everyday life may be damaging people's health in unexpected ways.
The potential damage is to the spine. Bending your neck to look at the screen is what's doing the damage. Research suggests that pressure on the spine doubles with each inch you bend your head.
Unfortunately, many of us bend our heads a lot and for extended periods. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, says smartphone users spend an average of 2 to 4 hours per day hunched over mobile devices.
It's no surprise that back and neck pain have increased among users of electronic gadgets, and the effects may not go away quickly.
"Poor posture is easy to spot in the hunched over forms of older adults who have carried bad habits for a lifetime," said Stephen Gubernick, Doctor of Chiropractic at The Joint Chiropractic. "However, few people realize that there are health implications that make good posture essential for healthy living at any age."
Gubernick says a misalignment of the spine can affect overall health and well-being. Your spine provides protection to the nervous system, which in turn controls and coordinates all the different functions of your body.
When there is a disruption in the nerve communication to organs and tissues, messages may be scrambled resulting in abnormal function.
What to do
Poor device posture can be corrected by not using your smartphone so much – but let's be real, is that really likely to happen? So it might be wise to change the way we hold the device.
In the case of a smartphone, hold the phone higher, closer to eye level, so that you don't have to bend your head. It's important for parents to encourage children to improve their device posture, since their bodies are still developing.
Back pain is normally a complaint among older people but a 2013 survey in the United Kingdom found a startling 84% of young people said they have suffered an aching back in the previous year. The survey by Simplyhealth also found most adults of all ages spent as much time hunched over a device of some sort as they spent sleeping.
Important to health
In fact, good posture may be a little-appreciated contributor to long-term good health. The Cleveland Clinic advises training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.
It keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly, helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis and decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.