Smart Phone Syndrome [Part One]

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How much time in a given day do you spend on your phone?

If you are like most people in Singapore, IT’S A LOT!

You’re probably texting, emailing, surfing the internet, updating Facebook, posting on Instagram, checking Twitter, maybe even snapchatting throughout your day. Possibly you do the majority of your work on your phone—on call twenty-four-seven.

Looking down at your phone for excessive periods of time is one of the most common causes of neck pain, shoulder stiffness, and bad posture in our hectic modern lives.

As more and more people are spending lots of time looking down, fixated on the small screens of their phones, this problem is gaining momentum; it’s getting worse. I would say that pain and dysfunctionfrom this type of bad posture is an epidemic—especially for young people, who are getting into this posture sooner and sooner in their lives.

Recommended Resource: Simple Exercise to Reduce Neck Pain and Shoulder Tension

Simply stated: looking down excessively is bad for you. This is even a larger problem in growing children and young people.

This problem is so pervasive that a new term has been commonly used to describe the situation. This problem is also known as ‘Text Neck’. 

How Does Bad Posture Cause Neck Pain?

To really understand the complexity of this problem, it’s important that we explore the relationship between your head position, your neck (cervical spine), the muscles of your neck and upper back, and the relevant support structures.

This specific type of bad forward hunching posture is known as Forward Head Posture or FHP for short.

So what happens when you look down at your phone for an extended period of time?

Related Resource: Posture Checklist for Healthy Children

Forward Head Posture Damages Your Health

Here is what happens to you when you are in a fixed posture looking down:

  • Your head shifts forward as you move into a flexed forward position. Imagine looking down with your chin tucked. This is the position many of us find ourselves in regularly, whether we are at work on a computer, or engrossed in our phones.

  • This forward repositioning of your head changes the center of gravity of your head, so more weight is translated forward. The weight of your head moves forward and, overtime, your body will respond to this change.
  • The average human head weighs 4-5 kilograms, so a change in the weight bearing can have a dramatic effect on your spine, muscles, nerves, and related structures.
  • This distortion in weight bearing stresses the posterior (rear or behind) structures of your upper neck, neck, and upper back.

  • Your cervical spine should have a forward curve. However, as a result of the forward shifting of your head, your spinal curve may straighten out, or worse yet, kink forward in a reversal position.
  • This distorted alignment of the spinal bones in your cervical spine can stress or impinge on nerves and stretch your spinal cord.
  • This stress to your nervous system will interfere with the flow of life through the nerves of your cervical spine, dramatically affecting many aspects of the function of your body.
  • Your muscles will respond to change in weight by tightening in order to counteract the stress of the altered weight bearing.

  • The muscles of the front of your neck, shoulders and chest will become excessively tight and activated.
  • The muscles in your back will become elongated, weak, and over time may significantly “shut down.”
  • Your shoulders will chronically round forward, and your head will feel ‘locked’ forward as well.
  • As a result, you’ll likely feel tight, stiff, and restricted in your upper back and shoulders.
  • Your neck will become stiff, and movement will be restricted.
  • Overtime, inflammation can develop as well as significant pain.
  • If this problem persists, the nerve irritation can lead to numbness and tingling as well as sharp, shooting pain into your shoulders, arms, and hands.

As you can see, Forward Head Posture is not a small problem. This posture can be a signal that something quite profound is happening inside of you.

Related Resource: Posture Checklist for Healthy Children

Simple stress, like sitting at a computer or spending a lot of time surfing the internet on your phone, can have dramatic consequences for your health.

Let’s look a little deeper.

Here’s an Ideal X-ray: 

As you can see, there is a normal, forward curve as seen on this person’s x-ray. This ideal alignment allows for good posture and optimal function of this person’s nerve system. They likely have good movement and limited pain and dysfunction. This is what we want to see when people come in to have their spines checked.

Here’s an X-ray of a Person that has Forward Head Posture:

As you can see, there is a normal, forward curve as seen on this person’s x-ray. This ideal alignment allows for good posture and optimal function of this person’s nerve system. They likely have good movement and limited pain and dysfunction. This is what we want to see when people come in to have their spines checked.

Again, one of the major causes of forward head posture is the act of looking down for long periods of time. This bad posture is an effect of a deeper, structural problem on the inside: the type of spinal misalignment above.

In this case, you can see a straightening misalignment of the spinal bones. This person’s spine should be curved forward, but it is too straight, and that’s a problem.

This misalignment condition will cause excessive stress to the muscles, ligaments, discs, and most critically the nerves associated with those regions.

In this specific case, this person had a lot of muscle aches, shoulder stiffness, restricted movement,neck painbad posture, and frequent headaches.

Posture-related spine problems are far too common because many of us spend a lot of time sitting at computers, on our smart phones with bad posture, and have to contend with continual mental and emotional stress.

Chiropractic is a Natural Solution to Feel Better and Perform Better

Chiropractic specializes in realigning your spine, improving the health of your nervous system, and naturally correcting bad posture.

By correcting the cause of your neck pain, we can help you feel better and more importantly, perform better in your life.

The first step is to have your spine checked.

In Part Two of this series, we will look at simple tips to reduce the damaging effects of excessive smart phone usage, ways to reduce Forward Head Posture, as well the unique solution that chiropractic offers for posture related problems.

Click here for for Part Two.

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