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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Tablets and smartphones are a pain in the neck

by DR. WAYNE M. FICHTER JR./Natural Spine Solutions
| March 16, 2022 1:00 AM

I routinely have patients come into our office complaining of neck and shoulder pain. When I go out to the waiting room to get them for a treatment, what are most of them doing? Texting. I actually had one teenager send 24,000 texts in one month. What do you think she was coming into the office for? As you might have guessed, neck pain.

Smartphones and Tablets are an integral part of our daily lives but we must be aware of the possible harm with overuse. Further research into the physical effects of using the devices still needs to be done, but scientists have discovered that neck pain may only be the beginning of phone-related health issues. A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics found that 53 percent of mobile phone users suffer numbness or neck aches. Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback discovered that 83 percent of subjects reported some hand and neck pain during texting — but also displayed other signs of tension, like holding their breath and increased heart rates. Participants in this study experienced these physical symptoms of tension while texting even when they believed they were relaxed.

Most people adopt a forward-and-down head position while they text or play games on their smartphones. Judith Gold, a researcher at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research in Gävle, Sweden, found in a study of 859 subjects that 90 percent held their necks flexed (defined as more than 10 degrees forward of neutral alignment) while texting. The more the participants in her studies texted, she says, "the greater the chance that they would experience neck or shoulder pain."

The physical stress of texting adds to the accumulated buildup of pressure in neck muscles already strained by the amount of time many of us spend in a flexed posture while sitting at desktop computers. Holding your head in such a posture can add up to 30 pounds of extra weight on your upper vertebrae which, in addition to straining the upper fibers of your trapezius muscles, which put excessive pressure on the spine which can lead to restricted motion and potential damage to the structure over time.

OSHA has an ergonomic evaluation checklist based on a desktop environment whose No. 1 suggestion is that the head and neck be to be upright, or in-line with the torso (not bent down/back) and facing forward. Going down the list, the trunk should be perpendicular to the floor, shoulders and upper arms in line with torso; forearms, wrists and hand straight and in line (forearm at 90 degrees); wrists and hands straight, thighs parallel to the floor; lower legs perpendicular; and feet flat.

This is hardly feasible when using a hand held device, but we can be aware of our posture and body mechanics. This could be the difference between feeling good at the end of the day and just getting through the day.

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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene. For more information, please contact us at 208-966-4425.

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