I never would have imagined in the 80’s that some quarter century later we could be walking around with a phone the size of a deck of cards and be able to connect with anyone, anywhere…never mind being able to access Googles worth of information on something called the internet.
Technology has certainly seen exponential growth in the last 20 years.
One of the biggest challenges with phones of old and perhaps still to this day is the need to cradle them to keep your hands free. This was probably one of the first side effects of poor ergonomics I noticed in patients some 18 years ago when starting my practice.
Constantly holding the phone against the ear with the shoulder while doing something else caused the neck and upper back to undergo a sprain strain phenomena leading to aches, pains, headaches as well as numbness and tingling into the arms and hands.
These days, we have earphones, headsets and Bluetooth technology to allow us to use our phone while keeping our arms and hands free without having to bend the head and neck to one side or the other. However, there are other trends and habits now that are taking over the postural concerns we see with using smartphones.
The Phone Pandemic: What are smartphones doing to our posture?
Although we’ve had telephones for decades now, it’s been only the last 15 years or so that we entered into smartphone technology. Now we don’t just talk on the phone… we do everything on the phone! Texting, editing documents, playing games, using apps, surfing the internet and countless other positive, productive and perhaps time-stealing options!
The primary challenge is that we tend to look down at our phones. Ideally, we’d like to hold them up at eye level, the same as we’d like to look at a computer screen. Laptops and tablets have the same challenge in that we tend not to have them at an ideal height.
All this looking down is in exact contrast to how our neck and head should normally look, and science shows it has some significant impacts. By having our neck in this forward, bending down position, it increases the forces on the different parts of the spine and leads to premature wear and tear or degeneration. Further, this relative wrong position of the head over the rest of the Healthy Body, effects our organs, glands, blood vessels and nervous system. There is a loss of lung volume with breathing, our digestion is impaired and we just generally look and feel older with this slouched over posture.
The best solution is changing your habits:
Smartphones, being so mobile, are easy to hold up. Books and desk work historically had the same challenge if we didn’t pay attention. The problem these days is the number of hours that we are probably in this wrong position.
We didn’t leave work in the past to commute and spend an evening on our phones and tablets. The opportunity to go wrong in this respect has increased exponentially. So while we were able to balance this out in the past, it’s getting more challenging to do so these days.
However, we must be up to the challenge if we’re going to negate the effects of this evolving pandemic and what smartphones are doing to our posture. Limit your time on these devices as much as you can and when using them, try to hold them up as much as possible, either on your own or by using a stand or pillow, etc.
Interfering with your lifeline through bad posture is not worth the trade-off when it comes to the ease and access that smartphones provide. Sit tall, stand tall, and preserve your health!