When using your phone, your shoulders slump. Your neck flexes. Your head extends. You look and feel horrible, but there is a solution.
Bad posture equals increased muscle activity, and tragically they cause muscles in the upper back to give up. Your neck gets tight, and the bones in your upper back start to sit on the ligaments for support. You’re not even trying to use your muscles at this point. Your discs and ligaments are taking up the stress of posture. In this study from Yonsei University, the muscle activity of the subject’s neck immediately shot up, while the muscle activity of the thoracic (upper back) paraspinal muscles immediately shut down. Along with that, the lower trapezius, responsible for shoulder posture and stability, shut off–and got worse over time. Translation: Bad posture causes a cascading effect down your body, and your phones are encouraging that behavior.
When your muscles shut off and you are resting on your ligaments and discs, this is known as a flexion relaxation response. This is how low back pain and degenerative arthritis are caused constant bad posture.
So with smartphone use, you slouch your real body while you play in a virtual world. You almost certainly will start having neck pain in the short term, and will eventually develop arthritis and low back pain in the long term.
At Rincon Chiropractic, being in the heart of San Francisco in SOMA, we see a lot of tech workers who are stuck behind a desk, a laptop, or a smartphone just to get work done. As a consequence we absolutely see a lot of neck pain cases. We see younger workers who haven’t had the time to develop arthritis, but they’re on the path towards it.
The first step in taking care of your neck pain is to develop an awareness of your posture at work and at play. If you are spending 16 minutes at a time on your smartphone without support, then it’s only a matter of time before you develop moderate neck pain, and tight neck muscles.
The question is: What can I do to be more conscious about my behaviors?