HUNCHING over ipad, laptop can put an additional stress on the spine. Overtime, this can eventually cause a permanent pain in the neck that may eventually require an operation to correct.
No doubt, the use of smartphones have revolutionised the way many things are done – banking, checking mails, communicating with friends, accessing latest news, playing games and so on. But excessive use of these technologies can cause a variety of problems, including neck and back pain, discomfort and lost productivity.
In fact, experts warn that individuals who spend hours slouched on the couch using their phones for texting, emailing, checking social media or even gaming tend to experience the most discomfort.
This constant pain in the thumbs and wrists due to inflammation of the tendons, a condition called De Quervains disease has been joined by “Blackberry thumb” – repetitive strain injury caused by texting and “iPad hand”, aches and pains caused by swiping and typing on a tablet.
Incidentally, more and more adolescents are heads down into their phones and in a recent study published in Surgical Technology International’s 25th edition, bending the head to look at the mobile device held in the hands can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on the neck.
The study was to measure the impact that the typical texting posture —head tilted forward, shoulders drooping — is having on the body. It found that although the head weighs between 10lb and 12lb, the effective weight on the neck at a 15-degree angle is about 27lb. This rises to 60lb at 60 degrees.
The posture adopted when staring at smartphones can overtime generate back and neck aches, like it happens when people work for long at their table computers, said Professor Segun Ogunlade, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, University College Hospital, Ibadan.
Although, it is possible to ensure that the smartphone is placed at the same level as the eye to reduce the strain that it could have on the neck, he said that any abnormal posture the body maintains will over time take its toll on the neck and back since the body is bent.
A normal standing position is facing forward and all the curves of your neck and spine are in correct alignment. But when one drops the chin on to the chest for a long period, it ends up stretching the whole structure. Eventually, in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, it could lead to serious consequences.
Professor Ogunlade, who cautioned that people need to be mindful of their neck when using such technologies as smartphones and Ipads, added that the problem was more with how they were handled when being used.
He declared: “They could have a way of causing mechanical neck and back pain, but once you stop the habit, it will go but it would have done the damage. In persons who have tendency to have degenerative neck problems such as cervical spongilosis, this could make the problem appear earlier or even worsen it.”
Professor Ogunlade, who remarked that many people are not aware that any bad posture can affect their health, added that “two issues are always considered when it comes to the use of mobile phones; exposure to radiation and mechanical posture. You can imagine, many people could be on their phones for one hour, bending down their neck and sending SMS, reading or chatting.”
Moreover, outgoing registrar, Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board, Dr J. D Jogunola, stated many people take to different postures while using smartphones and as such its effect on the neck and back would vary from one person to the other.
According to Dr Jogunola, when a person’s posture is bad while on the smartphone, it could affect the muscles of the neck, adding that many professionals such as typists and secretaries end up with serious back and neck problem due to the repetitive nature of their work and having to seat for long while working on the computer or typewriter.
However, Dr Jogunola declared that the damage may be more pronounced in those above 45 years compared with adolescents that tend to be more flexible and active.
He advised people to use voice recognition and make phone calls instead, and take regular breaks and alter their texting positions to avoid problems.