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Posted on 08-16-2016
Due to the latest crazes in technology and social media, people are spending countless hours looking down at their smartphones. Whether it’s catching the nearest Pokemon, posting a tweet or striking a pose for a selfie, smartphones have become a staple in today’s society and everywhere you look almost everyone has one in hand.
Studies have shown that the average person spends 2 to 4 hours a day on their cellular devices. As convenient and entertaining as this can be, the overuse of these devices can add undue stress on our spine and, in turn, our nervous system, affecting not only the structure, but function and physiology of our bodies. The spine consists of 33 vertebrae altogether and can withstand the heaviest of loads during optimal alignment. However, when the spine is susceptible to repetitive stress, such as looking down at your phone, the vertebrae are vulnerable to subluxation (misalignment) leading to a weakened spine filled with pain and stiffness.
As the spine gets subluxated, not only does it lead to the progressive wear and tear on vertebrae, but research has proven that abnormal spine health and posture leads to an imbalance in the function of the nervous system. A study in 2014 showed that repetitive poor posture, especially in the head and neck from cellphone use, leads to imbalances in hormones, such as low testosterone, reduced serotonin, increased cortisol and more; therefore, leading to changes in our mood, stress levels, our sleep and our development, even at a younger age.
So how does looking down at your phone add stress to your spine? The head is perfectly placed on top of your neck, connected to your top spinal vertebrae. The joints, muscles and ligaments work together to keep the head in its place. However, when we allow our heads to tilt forward, we let gravity do its work. Gravity adds weight to an already heavy head, that even the slightest increase in forward movement can add 10-12 pounds to the weight of the head.
According to the same study, adding 15 degrees of forward head movement can increase the weight of the head by 27 pounds, 30 degrees adds 40 pounds, 45 degrees adds 49 pounds and so on. As the weight of the head increases, this causes a lot of repetitive strain onto the spine and surrounding soft tissues as they try to compensate for this added weight. This constant tug and pull will then cause changes to the structure of the spine the more it happens. Your spine develops to have natural curves to withstand forces, but with this repetitive strain on the neck, the cervical spine starts to lose its natural curvature. This, in turn, may lead to wear, tear and degeneration of the spine.
As technology advances, it’s getting harder and harder to move away from using these devices in our everyday lives. So if we can’t move away from them completely, there are some ways to lessen the load on your spine.
First of all, be mindful of your posture. It’s always best to have your ears leveled with your shoulders, which means making sure your head is over your shoulders and your shoulders aren’t drooping forward. Also, find ways to have your devices at eye-level instead. Secondly, be mindful of how much time you’re spending on these devices. Not only is it best to reduce overall time spent on your smartphone, but make sure you’re taking breaks as well to relieve any prolonged strain on your spine. Lastly, seek Chiropractic care. Our spines are not immune to everyday stresses in an ever-changing world; therefore, regular chiropractic care can not only relieve the regular aches and pains, but can improve spinal alignment to relieve negative stresses on your nervous system, even affecting a lot of the physiological and hormonal changes in our body.
To find out how your Mississauga Chiropractors can help you on your way to improved spinal health and wellness, please contact us at (905) 821-4951.
Surgical Technology International Journal 2014 Nov;25: 277-9. Hansraj, KK.
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