Written By Michael Sabatino PT, DPT
Director of Physical Therapy | Monmouth Pain & Rehabilitation
In our society, technology is rapidly advancing and our smartphones have taken over our daily lives for both work and recreation. With our lives revolving around continually staring down at our phones and tablets, I can’t stress the utmost importance of being cognizant of keeping correct posture and positioning while we type and text.
You’ll often see online comments and memes referring to the ‘zombie apocalypse’ with pictures of people constantly staring down at their phones. It’s funny, but is a valid observation. I frequently see people in the clinic, on the street, EVERYWHERE, walking with their heads turned down, staring blindly into their smartphones for hours on end. With that being said, when most people text or are reading something on their smartphones, they hunch and keep their heads looking down.
This may seem harmless at first, but the continued duration of looking down places an enormous amount of stress on the structures in your neck that weren’t meant to be loaded in that manner. Over time, this position has a debilitating effect, resulting in pain and injuries to your neck and spine. Additionally, while keeping your head in this lovely forward position, you are placing your thoracic spine in a flexed position for an extended period of time, again creating issues in another area of the spine which has a large influence on the neck. With smartphones being such an integral, yet, monotonous part of our daily lives, most likely, you are completely oblivious to the causation of your pain.
I believe that the term, ‘Blackberry Thumb’ was coined years ago at the beginning of the smartphone craze. It was the pain and tendonitis developed from the overuse of your thumb while utilizing your wireless device. Blackberrys were popular with the business crowd and ‘Blackberry Thumb’ didn’t affect the masses. It was viewed more as a techie/nerdy injury that only those specific people suffered.
But just like our thumbs in the past, by constantly keeping our heads down, we can cause overuse injuries to the muscles in our neck and damage to our spine. This in turn can impede our ability to perform basic daily tasks, to recreational activities or even our jobs. Are we catching a theme here? This is not meant to scare you, but rather open your eyes to the damage we are doing to our bodies with seemingly innocent and mundane tasks. The technology is not going away anytime soon, but we can prevent poor posture and positioning while using our phones. We just need to remain mindful to what repetitive and sustained positions we keep our bodies in before it is too late.