Dr. Frank Collier is a board-certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician and Pain Management Specialist who specializes in the treatment of injuries and illnesses that affect how people move and function while living with pain.VIEW FULL BIO
We’ve become a nation glued to our smartphones, iPods and tablets. We use them for just about everything — getting the news, watching movies, reading the latest best-selling book, playing games and of course communicating. What most people don’t realize is how all of this time looking at your mobile device impacts their spine.
At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, we see a lot of patients with back and neck issues. If they are not treated and allowed to progress, they can seriously impact a person’s mobility and quality of life. Some issues can be prevented simply by recognizing and changing simple behaviors, like how much time we spend looking at our hand-held devices.
Why the Position of Your Head Affects its Weight
The posture that people assume when looking mobile device is not normal for the body. Normal posture is when your head is above the rest of your body, your shoulder blades are retracted and your ears are aligned with your shoulders. There’s a reason why adults were always telling us to sit or stand up straight as children. Good posture is good for the body.
When we are immersed on our smartphone, our head leans forward. That increases the amount of stress on the cervical spine. It’s a matter of physics. The average adult person’s head weighs somewhere between 10 and 12 pounds in a neutral position. However, the farther it tilts forward, the more weight it puts on the neck. When it’s at a 45-degree angle to the neck, it can weigh as much as 60 pounds. Even at a 15-degree angle, it can weigh more than 25 pounds. That’s because as the head moves further from your center of gravity, it weighs more.
Couple the time we spend staring down at our phones with the time we spend leaning in to our computer screens and toward the steering wheel of our cars, and you’re talking hundreds of hours a week spent in a bad posture. That takes its toll on the vertebrae. They become flat, which means that the padding between the spinal segments is eliminated and the cartilage wears down. This can lead to arthritis, bone spurs, pinched nerves and chronic neck pain.
How You Can Minimize the Strain on Your Spine
So how do we prevent this from happening? First, pay attention to your posture. If you find that you’re staying in one for a long time or that it’s causing discomfort, change it. Many of let hours go by in the same position. A good rule of thumb is to change your position for 30 seconds every 30 minutes. Stretch in the opposite direction of the way you have been facing. Taking frequent breaks not only can reduce the strain on your spine, but help clear your head as well. Staying as physically active as possible is also a good way to reduce the impact of some bad habits on your spine.
At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, we have two physicians who specialize in spine care. Robert Hurford, Jr., MD, PhD specializes in the surgical treatment and rehabilitation for spine conditions, Stephan Esser, MD specializes in non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation. The two doctors work closely together to determine the best approach for treating each person’s condition. We don’t believe in performing unnecessary surgery if a more conservative approach can achieve positive results.
The Florida orthopedic specials at our five Jacksonville-area clinics specialize in different parts of the body because each is so unique. If you are in pain or have suffered a sports injury, call or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.