By Marc Lambert, DPT
These days most of use are heavy to moderate users of electric devices, primarily smart phones. It is estimated that about 77% of the world now has a mobile phone. The posture we have while using these devices can potentially give rise to musculoskeletal issues. There are more and more studies linking phone use with pain and dysfunction. Prolonged device usage can cause faulty posture such as forward neck posture, slouched posture, or rounded shoulders. Sustained forward neck posture can cause injury to the structures of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. The frequency of device use, the degree of neck flexion while using the phone, and the body position are some of the main factors associated with neck and shoulder pain and its severity. Long-term forward head posture may also increase the risk for accelerated degenerative spinal changes.
Looking at the cervical spine, when the degree of flexion, i.e. bending head forward/down increases. The force transmitted to the cervical spine increases. This increased force has the ability to cause increased pain. If the neck continues to be in an improper position for long periods of time, some muscles remain in their stretched positions while others in their contracted positions. This can cause an imbalance that could also lead to pain and dysfunction. Maintaining good posture with prolonged use of your phone or computer can help limit or prevent potential neck and shoulder pain.
Physical Therapists are specialized in helping those with pain due to faulty positioning and movement. If you are having pain and feel like it could be from poor posture due to overuse of your mobile device, how you sit working on a computer or even how you complete chores around the house, come see us at CPR to help resolve the issue.
Here are some basics to maintaining good posture and body position:
While using a computer:
- Sit upright and look straight ahead
- Eyes should point directly at the top third of the computer screen.
- Forearms should be parallel with the floor when typing.
- Elbows should be at the side.
- Feet should be flat on the floor with the thighs parallel with the floor.
- Take intermittent breaks
While using mobile phone:
- Stand or sit upright, don’t slouch or slump
- Keep the phone at eye level.
- Minimize the amount that the arms are floating in front of the body.
- Find a place to rest your elbows: use opposite hand, ribs, a desk and knees as possible options.
- Use phone’s voice dictation instead of texting
John D Borstad, Resting Position Variables at the Shoulder: Evidence to Support a Posture-Impairment Association, Physical Therapy, Volume 86, Issue 4, 1 April 2006, Pages 549–557, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/86.4.549
Jung SI, Lee NK, Kang KW, Kim K, Lee DY. The effect of smartphone usage time on posture and respiratory function. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(1):186–189. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.186
Al-Hadidi F, Bsisu I, AlRyalat SA, Al-Zu’bi B, Bsisu R, Hamdan M, et al. (2019) Association between mobile phone use and neck pain in university students: A cross-sectional study using numeric rating scale for evaluation of neck pain. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0217231. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217231