Tilting the head to look down at a phone, while reading or sending text messages, may lead to fibromyalgia and other conditions that require physical therapy, manual therapy or treatment by an orthopedist.In some cases, patients benefit from egoscue, a type of bodywork that relieves neck pain and restores physical function. The technique entails a series of “low-motion” movements.
Research by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spinal surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, showed that looking down at a phone can add as much as 60 pounds of pressure to the spine. The amount of strain depends upon the angle at which the neck is bent, Time magazine reported.
Hansraj’s study, “Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head,” was published in Surgical Technology International.
The typical cell-phone owner spends two to four hours each day using the device, according to the research. Time noted that “over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1,400 hours of excess stress on the cervical spine, or up to 5,000 hours for high school students.” As a result, people’s posture becomes distorted into a hunched position, which causes neck pain and spinal wear and tear.
Hansraj acknowledged that it is “nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues.” However, he pointed out that maintaining proper posture can help prevent pain from developing. He advised keeping the ears aligned with the shoulders while using a phone.When a person tilts the head forward, and droops the shoulders forward “into a rounded position,” the weight placed on the spine “dramatically increases,” the doctor said.
The introduction of Hansraj’s report noted that billions of people around the world use cell phones daily, and that most of them do so with poor posture. He explained that the purpose of his study was to “assess the forces incrementally seen by the cervical spine as the head is tilted forward,” and to help surgeons better understand “reconstruction of the neck.”
Hansraj created a model of the cervical spine, which he manipulated to determine how many pounds of pressure resulted from various movements.
“The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees,” he reported. “An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward, the forces seen by the neck surge to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees. At 90 degrees, the model prediction was not reliable.”
The doctor concluded that “loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine.” He pointed out that “these stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgeries.”
Hansraj wrote: “Cervical spine surgeons need to pay attention to the alignment and therefore to the stresses about the spine when performing anterior discectomies and fusion along with arthroplasties.”
He added that “with advancing spinal surgical techniques, such as the motion-sparing total disc arthroplasty, attention to the final position of the neck becomes critical.” The report warned against “misalignment of a reconstructed segment.”
“As far as we are aware, and after a review of the National Library of Medicine publications, there is no other study available to assess the stresses about the neck when incrementally moving the head forward,” Hansraj wrote.
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