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Smart Phones, Heavy Headed Humans

Four bowling balls weigh down on your spine while checking your phone

On average we are browsing, texting, tapping, reading our smart phones an hour a day. That’s sixty minutes with your head tilted, gazing at a tiny screen level with your navel. The posture is anything but relaxed, as it puts some 30 kg extra weight on your spine – that of four bowling balls! Let’s do the math. Your head weighs a mere 5-7 kg. Look down and tilt forward just 60 degrees and gravity pulls on your spine with the force of up to 30 newtons.

Smart devices make life easier but also more sedentary. Are you spending more time with your phone and less in the gym or the great outdoors? You not only increase the chance of cardiovascular disease and obesity but also strain your muscles and tendons. Tilting your head forward for a long time results in permanent bad posture, stressing your spine and giving your neck, shoulder and back muscles a painful cramp.

Various forces are in play with every movement of your vertebrae: vertical compression, shear force with bending, and rotation to a lesser extent. Tilting your head increases shear forces and makes your ligaments taut, forcing you into a bad posture. Overloading your neck and back results in degenerative wear and tear in the long run, affecting the entire spine, which is a delicate and comprehensive system.

DOCTOR’S ORDERS

“Should you experience frequent headaches, acute pain in your neck, upper arms, back or lumbar region, especially if the latter radiates down into your legs, you should immediately seek medical help,” explains Dr. István Berkes, orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist at Dr. Rose Private Hospital. “Unsubstantiated pain and seemingly random discomfort call for expert diagnostics and technical background to pinpoint the root cause. If the pain persists, let alone aggravates, the patient needs an accurate diagnosis to avoid maltreatment. In order to fend off chronic pain you take on a bad posture, which in turn worsens your condition,” concludes Dr. Berkes.

GOOD TO KNOW

• The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae and 100 joints, held together by 220 ligaments and moved by 120 individual muscles.
• The aggregate length of the disks that connect your vertebrae comprise up to one fourth of the length of your spine. Disks become less supple over time, a reason why we get shorter with age. On the other hand, astronauts are 3 percent taller on average when returning from the zero gravity of outer space to planet Earth.
• The spine is capable of four basic movements: bending forward, backward and sideways, and rotating along its vertical axis.
• As a result of sedentary lifestyle, 80 percent of the population in the developed world seek medical help with a spine condition at least once in a lifetime.
• Checking your posture is easier than you think: you are sitting or standing properly if your ears are right above your shoulders.