Smartphones are damaging your spine

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Smartphones are damaging your spine

Text neck is a global epidemic affecting millions of people of all ages, especially youngsters from all walks of life.

Widespread overuse of handheld mobile technology and addiction to smart gadgets, including tablets and computers, is resulting in a harmful and dangerous physical condition known as ‘text neck’. It’s the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, or other wireless
devices too frequently and for too long.

People don’t realise that the problem with texting/chatting is that it adds one more activity to our daily routine that causes us to look down. Most people are addicted; so they tend to do it for much longer periods.

Lately, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of patients, out of which 50 per cent are  schoolchildren and teenagers. It is specially concerning because growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.

Instead of a normal forward curve, patients can be seen to have a backwards curve, which can be degenerative, often causing head, neck, shoulder and back pain. The condition can also result in emotional and behavioural changes as the stress can affect the release of ‘happy hormones’. Resting your chin on your chest to look at your phone stretches the spinal cord and brain stem. This can affect respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. It can also mean that hormones such as endorphins and serotonin are not released, meaning people can wake up feeling anxious.

The damage can be minimised among teenagers and youngsters by regular exercising and adopting some healthy lifestyle changes. Mind the postureHere are a few tips on preventing the development or advancement of text neck:

Hold your cell phone at eye-level as much as possible. The same goes for
laptops and tablets too. Avoid stressful positions that may cause strain on your joints and muscles.

Make sure you don’t have to bend your head forward or look down to view the screen. Avoid looking down with your head bent forward for extended periods of time through the day.

Spend a whole day being mindful of your posture. Is your head bent forward when you drive? Or while you work on your laptop? Please remember that any activity you do with your head looking down puts excessive strain on your neck.

While working on the computer, be it at home or office, take small breaks in between, even if it is only for 10-15 minutes.

Go for a walk and do some stretching exercises to relax your neck and shoulder muscles.

Strengthen your core and back muscles while you work out. You could also benefit with regular practice of yoga, power yoga or Pilates.

Eat healthy and hydrate yourself well.

(The author is orthopaedic surgeon, Lilavati Hospital , Mumbai)

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