Technology has become an incredibly integral part of our lives. As it has adapted and changed, so have humans in the 21st century; we’re constantly on our smartphones—texting, calling, checking our Facebook updates, often for hours every day—and it may have a significant detrimental effect on our bodies.
The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds in a neutral position–when your ears are over your shoulders. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine (neck) begins to increase, causing stress. According to a study in 2008, if you lean 15 degrees forward, it’s as if your head weighs 27 pounds. If you lean 30 degrees, it’s as if your head weighs 40 pounds. If you lean 45 degrees, it’s 49 pounds. When you’re hunched over at a 60 degree angle, like most of us are many times throughout the day, you’re putting a 60 pound strain on your neck.
So what does this mean for your spine? This pressure can put a lot of stress on your neck and spine, pulling it out of alignment. Over time, this poor posture can lead to disc herniations, pinched nerves, metabolic problems, degeneration and even spine surgery. Think about the effect of 60 pounds for a moment – it’s the equivalent 5 bowling balls weighing 12 pounds or an eight year old child hanging around your neck.
While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, there are some simple steps we can take to take this strain off of our necks. A few easy fixes include:
- Take frequent breaks while using any mobile device or desktop computer.
- Practice exercises to help you build strength, such as standing in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to build muscles that help posture.
- Be mindful of your posture – keep your neck back and your ears over your shoulders.
- Look down at your mobile device with your eyes without bending your neck.
In short, continue to enjoy the incredible benefits of your smartphone, but remember to keep your head up!
About Dr. Refai
Daniel Refai is the director of spinal oncology at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Refai focuses on both intradural and extradural spinal tumors as well as metastatic and primary tumors of the spine. He performs complex spine tumor surgery and spine reconstruction surgery. He also directs the stereotactic radiosurgery division of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center for spine tumor treatment. Dr. Refai’s research interests include outcome analysis following surgery and radiosurgery for spine tumors. He has published extensively on the treatment of spinal disorders and has developed innovative multidisciplinary approaches for treatment. H e is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the North American Spine Society.
Dr. Refai completed neurosurgical residency at Washington University in Saint Louis under the tutelage of Ralph Dacey MD. He spent six months as a specialist registrar in neurosurgery at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. He completed a combined orthopaedic and neurosurgery spine fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic under Edward Benzel MD, Iain Kalfas MD, Gordon Bell MD, and others. He specializes in all aspects of complex spine surgery and is actively in clinical research. Dr. Refai enjoys teaching and has received numerous patient and medical education distinctions throughout his training.volved in clinical research. Dr. Refai enjoys teaching and has received numerous patient and medical education distinctions throughout his training.
 Hansraj, Kenneth. “Assessment of Stresses in the Surgical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head.” https://cbsminnesota.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/spine-study.pdf