We all do it. We lean over our phones, laptops or tablets typing away, unaware of how far or for how long we have been bent over our devices.
Members of our younger generation, though are headed for early onset of trouble with their spines. This is due to the extra strain placed on their necks and upper backs, as they balance their heads to maintain their eyes' downward-looking position.
Our heads weigh about 10-12 pounds. When we tilt our heads forward, muscles, tendons and ligaments must engage to hold our heads still while we gaze at our screens. Even the discs between each vertebra get involved to distribute the force more evenly in our necks.
Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine created a computer model of the cervical vertebrae to study the effect this weight has on our spines.
He published his article in the journal Surgical Technology International, where he reported that based on his model, as the forward angle of your head increases, the strain on your neck increases.
According to Spineuniverse.com, the amounts are as follows: 1
- At 15 degrees of forward, tilt may equate to a head weighing 27 pounds.
- At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40 pound head.
- The greater the angle, the greater the strain: 45 degrees forward equals 49 pounds of strain, and 60 degrees forward equals 60 pounds.
Dr. Hansraj stated that the average person is holding his or her head at a forward angle to look at a phone or read a tablet for 2-4 hours a day. Teenagers spend even more time staring at their devices, and they start doing that at an early age.
Now some people have commented that reading a book in this position can cause the same thing to happen, which is true, however people are still leaning over their technology devices in addition to leaning over books.
What can you do to prevent this back strain?
- Try to maintain proper alignment. Good posture means that your head is upright, your ears are in line with your shoulders, and your shoulder blades are down and retracted.