A medical spinal surgeon recently published a study detailing the long term damage that is noted in the cervical spine(neck) from looking down at your cell phone. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj in Surgical Technology International, found that people spend on average two to four hours a day with their heads tilted down, with activities including texting, checking social media and reading. Extend that over a year’s time and that is 700-1,400 hours over a year and the study finds for high schoolers the average is closer to 5,000 hours. The head forward position causes extra stress on the cervical spine. The muscles in the front of the neck become stronger and begin to shorten pulling the head forward on the shoulders. This according to the study, causes a hunched forward position. Each degree of of head forward position increases the pounds of pressure on the spine, with up to 60 pounds noted with certain angles. Over time the this stress causes spinal wear and tear arthritis in the spine mand wreek havoc on that person’s life in the future.
So, are you giving up your phone? Take the phone away from your teenager? Probably not going to happen. Holding your phone out and up will help with the angle but adds some additional strain to the shoulder muscles. Long before cell phones became common place, we noted the large majority of our new patients had this same head forward posture on x-ray. The cervical spine has seven bones. The top bone, the atlas is the most moveable of all spinal joints and connects to the skull. The atlas surrounds and protects the brainstem. The brainstem controls the involuntary muscles of the neck. Because the atlas is more moveable, it also misaligns due to trauma or physical stressors. Atlas misalignments alter nerve supply to the neck muscles and the head moves forward on the shoulders. With specific analysis of the joints of the upper neck, corerction of the misalignment of the atlas restores nerve supply to the muscles and head is naturally pulled and held in the proper position over the shoulders.
So, while Americans are not going to change their phone habits any time soon, they can take a proactive step in decreasing the chance of cervical degeneration. Keeping the atlas in position, will allow the brain to reset the skull over the shoulders after cell phone use. Blair Upper Cervical doctors have extensive training in the specific corrections necessary to ensure proper upper neck alignment.