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Cellphone Use May Cause Stress to the Neck and Cervical Spine

January 28, 2015

A study by Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, reveals that looking down at cellphones in poor posture increases the gravitational pull on the cervical spine, causing harmful stress to the neck.

Acute pain in a neck at the young womenA recent study from New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine suggests that increasing use of smartphones for texting, emailing, and social media places a burdensome and potentially detrimental force on the cervical spine when performed in poor posture.

The average head human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. A recent study featured in Neuro and Spine Surgery by Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, demonstrated that as individuals incrementally look down at their smartphone, they increase the gravitational pull of their cranium on their cervical spine. As individuals tilt their head forward, the force experienced by the neck surges from 27 pounds at 15 degrees to 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees. To illustrate the burden of the gravitational pull on the neck at a 60-degree forward tilt, calculations in a publication in the Surgical Technology International equated 60 pounds to a four adult-sized bowling balls, six plastic grocery bags worth of food, or an eight-year old.

Proper posture is when the ears are aligned with the shoulders and the shoulder blades are retracted. Nielsen Holdings N.V., an American global information and measurement company, reveals that smartphone users spend about an hour on their cellphones per day, and unless they train themselves to look straight ahead at their screens, they may be causing continual stress to their spine. Dr. Hansraj writes that the continual stress on the neck “may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possible need for surgeries.”

This study suggests that while it may be difficult for individuals to avoid having poor posture when using their smartphones, users should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine to avoid placing stress on the neck and cervical spine.


Click here to see the full feature on The Atlantic.

To read the original study, click here to visit the CBS Minnesota website.

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