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  • Heidi Blackie

Could my phone be hurting me?

Updated: Mar 20

The average American spends four hours a day on their phone, add in the use of a computer and the total screen time skyrockets. What do these positions have in common? Our neck must position our eyes to see our screen, often resulting in a forward and/or flexed position of our neck.

The effects of a static neck position can be profound. It can lead to pain, herniated discs, pinched nerves, fatigue and emotional changes to name a few. Compression of the space between the vertebrae can also compress the arteries and nerves taking blood and messages to and from the brain and head. In fact, it can affect the arms, shoulders, rib cage, head, brain and the structure of your spine.

These effects are not isolated to adults, children are at risk too, as their use of devices increases.

The load on your neck changes relative to the position of your head, similar to holding a weight close to your body versus at arms length.

  • Could you hold a 30 pound object for hours? Probably not, but that is what the seven vertebrae and 20 muscles of your neck are doing to hold your head in position—and that is just for 15 degrees of flexion. That number increases significantly the more your neck is flexed.

  • For every inch your head sits forward of your shoulders, the weight of your head increases by approximately 10 pounds. The weight of our head is already heavy relative to other mammals at 10-12#, so adding more weight runs counter to optimal health, and can create short and long term consequences.

What can you do to keep your neck resilient?

  • Take frequent breaks when using the computer or devices. I use Pomodoro as a reminder. Studies show that short, frequent breaks (every 20-25 minutes) are better than less frequent, longer breaks. This can also serve as a reset if you are in an awkward neck position.

  • Hold devices where you can see them while maintaining a neutral neck position.

  • Make sure your computer monitor is set at the correct height.

  • Make sure your pillow maintains a neutral neck position and isn’t pushing your head forward.

  • Maintain mobility in your neck and entire spine.

  • Try this exercise: keep your head still and move your eyes in circles, 3x each direction. Then keep your eyes fixed and move your head in circles, 3x each direction. Do this often throughout your day.

If you have questions about how set up a neck friendly monitor or workstation, please reach out!

Image by Kenneth Hansraj

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