Does looking at your phone wreck your spine?
Over the holidays, my brother mentioned an article he read about the stress on your neck of looking down at your phone—since, you know, we’re ALL kinda guilty of that. ;)
Now that I’m back online from my 2-week macro break, I wanted to check into it for myself.
Turns out, it’s not as simple as I thought (of course)!
So what’s the latest info?
According to a new study (that’s the simple version) published in November 2014 by Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, the Chief of Spine Surgery at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, in the most extreme cases, you could be putting the equivalent of 60 lbs on your neck!
I probably most resemble the middle figure at 30 degrees, which is still 40 lbs of stress according to the study. Over the holidays, based on the chat with my brother, I started holding my phone out in front of my face, with my arms up, more like this guy on the right…
Sure, I looked really different, but I do believe good posture is important.
But does this really matter?
NOW, in the past, I would have just read this article, adjusted my behavior, and moved on. After realizing how much I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to certain nutritional ideas out there, I’d like to be a bit more impartial and thorough before making any conclusions, as there is so much info throwing people into hysteria and reactive states, and I’d like to not be part of that (in terms of spreading info or my own behavior).
I did a bit of research and found this article in The Atlantic that speaks with Dr. Ian Dorward, a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St Louis, who argues that only when EXTERNAL weight is applied to our heads AND we are looking at a downward angle for a SUSTAINED amount of time might there be musculoskeletal issues.
For someone like Dr. Dorward, who is hunched over for surgery all day and is wearing apparatus on his head to assist his work, he says it is HIGHLY more likely he will have skeletal issues than the average texter.
@washingtonpost Just to clarify: the study highlighted herein provides NO EVIDENCE of an epidemic or of the wreckage of any spines.
— Ian Dorward (@IanDorwardMD) November 22, 2014
According to Dr. Hansraj and his study:
Hold your phone out in front of you and keep your spine aligned.
According to The Atlantic article:
“For most people, the point remains that good posture is generally good when possible, but texting is not an imminent threat to spinal health.”
According to me:
I think consistency is the real issue. If you’re hunched over for hours every day (whether that’s looking at your phone or reading a book), you’ll probably feel the consequences over time. If you’re occasionally looking down at your phone, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal.
Check in and see how your posture is throughout the day. Even when you’re walking or driving, is your neck pitched forward a little (like me), or is everything relatively aligned in a straight line from your feet to the crown of your head?
I hope this gives you a more complete picture of the issue and allows you to make your OWN decision.
Would love to hear any other thoughts or comments you have on the topic below!