Next time you walk outside or down the hall at work, notice how many people are hunched over while they walk or sit, or even when they’re carrying on a conversation. If you were to go to a college campus or high school, you would probably find most kids with their heads down.
It’s not that everyone is trying to hide or slouching because they’re sad. They’re just obsessed with the smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that they just received as holiday gifts.
They’re emailing, texting, chatting, posting on social media, playing video games, checking the weather, getting caught up on the news, and doing everything else that mobile applications make it possible to do from the palm of their hand.
Here’s the problem. When you tilt your head forward, you increase the gravitational pull on a delicate area of the spine. The more you tilt your head forward, the heavier the load, and the more strain you put on your neck and the muscles that support it.
When your head is perfectly upright with 0-degree tilt, it weighs about 10-12 pounds. But look at what happens when you start putting your head down.
- With a 15-degree tilt, the effective weight increases to about 27 pounds.
- With a 30-degree tilt, the effective weight increases to about 40 pounds.
- With a 45-degree tilt, the effective weight increases to about 49 pounds.
- With a 60-degree tilt, the effective weight increases to about 60 pounds.
Next time you’re at the gym, lift a 10-pound dumbbell. Then lift a 25-pound dumbbell. That will show you just how much pressure you’re putting on your spine by barely hanging your head forward.
This form of poor posture caused by tilting your head forward for long periods of time now has a name. It’s called “text neck.” The stress on your spine does more than cause headaches and pain in your neck, back and shoulders. It can reduce lung capacity by up to 30 percent, and some studies have linked text neck to neurological issues, depression and heart disease.
So what can we do about text neck?
Of course, the easiest thing would be to put your devices down and move around in the way God designed the human body to do. As for kids, tell them to go outside and play like our generation did when we were younger.
The reality of the situation is that mobile devices and the popular apps that adults and kids use every day aren’t going anywhere. In most cases, they’re essential work tools. But there are choices we can make as individuals and as parents to relieve the pressure on our spines.
Just like you want to position your computer monitor directly in front of you at eye level so you don’t have to bend or twist your neck, you should try to keep your mobile devices as close to eye level as possible to reduce the strain on your spine.
Sit and stand up straight, and hold your smartphones and tablets higher. This might be uncomfortable at first, but your body will eventually get used to it. Look down with your eyes instead of hanging your head forward.
Talk to you a chiropractor or physical therapist about exercises you can do to safely strengthen and stretch the muscles not just in your neck, but in your core, so your body instinctively practices good posture.
As parents, teach proper posture to your children. Tell them that they have to sit and stand correctly if they want to use these devices. Also, limit their time on mobile devices just like you limit their time in front of the television and computer.
There’s a wonderful world out there just waiting to be discovered. Instead of relying on technology to deliver it to you, go out and experience it!