According to new data published by the HSE, musculoskeletal disorders have leapt by a fifth between 2011/12 and 2013/14.
The switch from desktop computers to laptops/tablets and smart phones have created an epidemic of neck, back and shoulder problems.
Humans were designed to stand upright. And yet in this modern world, too many of us spend our days with our heads slumped over for a simple reason: we’re staring at the tiny screen of a smartphone or tablet.
People spend an average of 2 to 4 hours each day with their neck bent at this unnatural angle while shooting off emails or texts. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours a year. The success of social media is has led to an epidemic of poor smartphone/tablet posture.
A new study by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine found that bending your head at a 60 degree angle to get a better look at your selfie is putting 60 pounds’ worth of pressure on your cervical spine, the portion of the spine above the shoulders. That’s more than the weight of the average 7 year old!
The average adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when it’s in the upright or neutral position. However, with gravitational pull — the head becomes heavier the more you bend your neck forward. “The weight on the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees,” write the authors in the study. “Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgeries.”
Posture problems linked to mobile phones
It’s no secret that correct posture is better for your back. “In proper alignment, spinal stress diminished,” they write in their paper. “It is the most efficient position for the spine.”
Standing tall doesn’t just make you look better, it optimizes your health, too. Other studies have found good posture elevates testosterone and serotonin in the body, and also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Good posture has even been linked to traits such as tolerance for risk-taking.
Bad posture has been linked to a host of medical problems, including headaches and other neurological problems, depression, constipation, and heart disease. At a minimum, constant slouching is likely to cause a lot of chronic pain.
“While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over,” the authors write in their study.
• Raise your phone
• Glance down using your eyes rather than angling your neck forward
• Tilt your head from the axis at the top of the spine located between your ears – not from the base of your neck
• If using a tablet or laptop invest in a riser and separate keyboard and mouse
• Take moments to stretch and lengthen up during the day