Do you have back or neck pain? Do you own a mobile phone?

(Courtesy of Dr. Ken Hansraj M.D.)

If the answer is yes to either question the likelihood the answer to the other will be yes now or in the future.

In 2014 the Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation , Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, a fascinating article in Surgical Technology International. In it he identified something we have all seen on a daily basis, the epidemic caused by our obsession with electronic devices be they smart phones or tablets.

We know that people talk less to each other now as there is more time spent reading or catching up on social media, but have you ever looked at their posture? If you had the following will come as no surprise. Even if you hadn’t you are most likely to read this and think, oh yes that makes sense, I have seen that but never taken any note of it.

According to Kenneth Hansraj “An adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds (over 12 kg) at 15 degrees, 40 pounds (18 kg) at 30 degrees, 49 pounds (22 kg) at 45 degrees and a staggering 60 pounds (27 kg) at 60 degrees. “ So the more you look down at the device, the greater the pressure and strain on the neck. But it doesn’t stop at the neck. s everything is so finely balanced and inter connected in the body, this strain in the neck will have to be balanced by a change elsewhere in the body.

So what does 27 kg look like, well its 27 bags of sugar or more than a fully grown border collie dog,. Imagine carrying that weight from your neck every day. Hansraj went on to calculate the time an average user of such a device would be increasing the strain on their neck “ur hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smart phones and devices. Cumulatively this is 700 to 1400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine. It is possible that a high school student may spend an extra 5,000 hours in poor posture.” He concludes that “The weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees. Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries. While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over. “

I recall last year seeing a lady on the London Underground holding her smart phone up in front of her at eye level, thereby keeping her head and neck straight. It struck me as unusual at the time, because given the thousands of other commuters on the underground, without fail everyone else was holding their devices in their lap, stretching their neck extensively.

Yes Hansraj advice is good and we should adhere to it, but how many of us will tomorrow when we start our daily commute?