Devastating spinal effects of smart phone postures

I love this picture!

Billions of people around the world are using smart phones every day. We’ve all seen them, we are them! We use them at work, in the car, in bed, on the toilet and even on dates! But if you observe somebody’s posture while they are using their smart phone, I think even you are probably cringing at the thought, let alone a chiropractor. This posture is incredibly damaging to our spine and it’s already causing big problems. We’ll explore some of these problems in this blog post today.

The neck or cervical spine is supposed to have a gentle c shape. This particular shape distributes the weight of the head between the intervertebral discs at the front and the zygapophyseal or facet joints at the back. Perth chiropractor smart phone posture 1Our head, like a bowling ball weighing on average about 5kg, balances on top of the first cervical vertebra which is much smaller in diameter. What this all means is that as the head goes forward from neutral, there is a severe amplification of forces passing through the spine and not just the cervical spine, but also lower down in the thoracic spine. This leads to strain, inflammation and degeneration which I frequently see in the xrays of my patients. Of course in practical terms, this often leads to neck and or shoulder pain.
If we observe this picture, courtesy of Dr. Ken Hansraj M.D we can see just how much weight is actually being exerted upon our spine at different angles of forward tilt. So at 60 degrees there’s 60 pounds or 27kg of extra pressure pulling you down and compressing those spinal joints. That is like carrying around an 8 year old kid on your neck! Dr Hansraj describes in his research paper that we use our phone on average 2-4 hours a day, resulting in 700-1400 hours a year that we are carrying this imaginary kid around our shoulders!! And he says that high school students can easily spend an EXTRA 5000 hours a year in poor posture. It is no wonder at all that I find the young adolescents to be the worst affected by poor posture and often accompanied by severe, chronic pain syndromes. If you’re not sufficiently shocked just yet, then I’ll tell you that further still, other studies have even found a direct correlation between poor posture and reduced life spans. Amy Cuddy and associates showed that “high-power posture posers” experienced elevations in testosterone, increases in serotonin, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk taking. “Low-power posture posers” exhibited the opposite pattern.

What to do?
Even by the time you’re an adolescent, you have accumulated years of physical injuries, jars and jolts and postural strain, which creates scar-tissue and stiffness or “rust” as I like to call it within the joints and muscles. Ideally these need to be broken apart. The only way to do this is with chiropractic adjustments. Adjustments also help to retrain your brain to deal with and organise this new-found movement your spine would have. So I strongly recommend chiropractic as a starting point and ongoing to help maintain movement. But the chiropractor can’t give you good posture and tone. We can break up the “rust” and free your spine up, but then it’s up to you! You need to do this in the following order:

1) Postural awareness – the starting point. By bringing awareness and consciousness into your everyday movements and postures, you can start to create change and improvement.

2) Stretches – There’s two that I’d recommend for the neck and upper back.
i) My “YMCA” exercise (video coming soon) where you in a standing and neutral position, pull your elbows and arms backwards. Starting over head, and then slowly bringing your arms down beside your body until your elbows are at your waist level.

ii) Chin-tuck exercise – Place a finger against your chin, and then tuck your chin towards your neck, but keeping your head and eyes level. Your head should move directly backwards as your chin tucks. Hold that for 10-15 seconds and repeat a few times

3) Exercise
There’s numerous options here, but coming soon I will give my recommendations and explanation about the different options and types of exercise for you to consider. But understand that exercise creates the muscle tone in your body, which holds your bones and joints together. So from a physical perspective, it’s the glue and will give you longer lasting results and will hold your chiropractic adjustments better and for longer, meaning you need less frequent treatments 🙂

4) Diet
Again this is a biggie and would need to be discussed in greater depth. But to sum it up, the Paleo diet is what I recommend. It’s the only scientifically valid and most congruent with our genetic requirements.

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