Mobile phones, tablets, smart phones and all those handy gadgets we carry wherever we go are a necessary part of our everyday lives. It is where we get connected to the world. However, our automatic response to, let's say, a text message or a notification from Facebook or a new tweet may do some harm to our spine. And this may cause more damage to our body after some time.
A study entitled "Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head" published in the journal Surgical Technology International found that bending one's head at a 60-degree angle, an angle formed whenever one checks his or her text message or e-mail on the smart phone, puts 60 pounds of pressure on the cervical spine.
The cervical spine is the part of the spine above the shoulders, and such angle according to The Atlantic is equivalent to weight of 60 pounds put on the spine, which is like the weight of four adult-sized bowling balls, six plastic grocery bags full of food or an 8-year-old child.
Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon and lead of the study, found this figure using a computer model of a human spine. "As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees," according to Hansraj.
Looking down at a phone increases the gravitational pull on the human head that on average weights about 10 to 12 pounds.
The cumulative effect of years of such stress can lead to degeneration of the spine itself.
Dr. Ezriel Kornel, a neurosurgeon with Brain & Spine Surgeons of New York, in White Plains, said that the study is probably the first study to look at the impact of the smart phone and tablet on the cervical spine.
According to Kornel, the damage incurred by the head bent over a small screen may not be evident immediately, but over time it can definitely take its toll.
"If you're not going to text less, you have be aware of the way you position yourself vis-à-vis your smart phone,'' he explained. "Awareness is the number-one thing. Ideally, you'd want to keep the phone or tablet at a higher level, so you're not bending your head down every time you look at the screen," he added.
Reports say that humans spend an average of two to four hours a day with bent neck while checking their phone.
Hansraj said, "These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries." A good posture, which according to him is "ears aligned with the shoulders and the 'angel wings,' or the shoulder blades, retracted," diminishes spinal stress.
"Individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over, " Hansraj advised.