With the ever-increasing use of smart cell phones there has been a corresponding
increase of users having neck and upper back pain, headaches and upper extremity
discomfort. This article will explain why cellular phone usage can be deleterious to
one’s health. It will also give information to counteract harmful musculoskeletal
An interesting research study published in Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, June
2017 noted that researchers investigating changes in posture and muscle activation
among 18 participants while interacting with their electronic device. The results
revealed that smart phone use induced a more flexed posture in the neck and trunk
compared with desktop computer use. The researchers also found that participants
began to experience neck and back pain if they used their smart phone for longer
than 15 minutes. The findings suggest that healthcare providers should consider the
influences of smart phone use in posture and muscle activity in the evaluation,
intervention, and prevention of neck and trunk conditions.
It has been noted that the human head weighs about as much as a bowling ball
which is 10 to 14 pound range. If the head is directly over our upper body its weight
is tolerated well and does cause discomfort to the neck and upper back. However, if
the head is in a flexed, forward position for extended periods of time causes the
muscles of the back of the neck and upper back contract and stresses in the spinal
joints. Over time this causes irritation to the structures. This can result in neck and
upper back pain, tension headaches and pain of the upper extremities radiates from
the nerves of the neck and upper back.
As of the research study noted earlier there is less of a forward head posture/flexed
neck and trunk when using a desktop computer compared to cell phone usage.
Thus, if a person has access to a desktop computer would be wise to use it versus
using a smart phone.
If one has to use a cell phone for an extended period of time it is wise to use the 20-
20-20 rule. This simply means that after 20 minutes of smart cell phone use a person
should stand straight up for 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. This will break the
cycle of prolonged poor posture. Of course, straightening up more frequently for
longer periods of time would certainly be even better.
If a person has ongoing neck pain, upper back discomfort, radiating pain into the
upper extremities and/or is having tension headaches the condition may have gotten
to the point where professional care is indicated. In this case a wise decision would
be to consult with a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractors are specialists who are
trained to diagnose what is causing serious musculoskeletal problems and have the
ability to render safe, effective treatment that does not involve surgery or harmful
pain medications like opioids.
It is best to take proactive steps when using cellular phones to avoid musculoskeletal
discomfort. However if accumulated stress has caused significant acute or chronic
discomfort it is best to seek professional chiropractic help.
For more tips on avoiding neck pain see this video. Learn how to use cold ice
packs to help your sore neck.