From giving directions to playing games, generating boarding passes to ordering coffee and sometimes even making calls, cellphones have become the center of much of our daily life. Unfortunately, all that advanced technology might just be giving you a literal pain in the neck.
For Kara Smith, a physical therapist at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center who specializes in neck and back therapy, pain from gadgets is no joke.
“This is what I spend most of my time talking about with clients,” said Smith. “People are having back pain not because they were lifting 100 pounds, but because they spend more than an hour on their phones every day.”
Consider the report from the analytics firm Flurry that adults spend five hours a day on their phones. That’s almost a third of your waking hours. So if one quick text is turning into more, you might need to become more mindful of how you use your phone.
If you’re feeling pain from too much time on your mobile device, Smith recommends these tips.
• Pay attention to posture. Sit up straight when you use your device, don’t round your upper back and don’t let your pelvis roll back. A lumbar roll can help give your spine the right shape while you’re sitting in a chair, or a rolled up towel can also help.
• Keep your ears over your shoulders and your device at chin level. Rest your elbows on an armrest. If it feels silly to hold your phone like that, just make sure it’s up high enough that your head and back are still aligned. When your head is bent forward looking at your phone in your lap, it puts pressure on your spine and neck muscles, which adds up over the course of days and weeks.
• Practice a neck retraction exercise. Similar to a chin tuck, during a neck retraction you keep your chin level and parallel to the floor. Place two fingers on your chin and push your head straight back like a drawer. Hold for one or two seconds and repeat 10 times. Smith said the exercise mobilizes the cervical spine and helps counteract the force that is put on your ligaments and discs when you are hunched over your phone. Smith recommends doing a set of 10 every 30 minutes you are on a device. It is also helpful every 30 minutes while driving on long trips.
If these tips don’t help resolve your pain, talk with your primary care provider or request a referral to a physical therapist. If you need to find a Samaritan health care provider, visit samhealth.org/FindADoc.