Bending incorrectly does indeed carry consequences. In fact, one of the emerging epidemics in spinal health is “text neck.” The human head weighs about
12 pounds, which doesn’t sound like much, until you bend forward and increase the weight on your neck.
In a recent study, Dr. Ken Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, explains that when you tip your head 15 degrees, that 12 pounds feels like the equivalent of 27 pounds to your neck joints and muscles. At 30 degrees, it’s 40 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds. Sixty pounds is the equivalent of carrying an 8-year old around your neck for a few hours every day.
When your posture is suboptimal, your muscles have to work overtime—even though you may not realize it is happening at the time. Imagine balancing a broomstick upside down. You can actually balance it in the palm of your hand if you make fine adjustments to keep the stick vertical. That’s essentially what your pelvis does to balance your head, neck, shoulders, and body. But if you were to try to hold that broomstick at a 45-degree angle, you’d need to grip it pretty hard because of the way the weight would be distributed. In the same way, over time, your back will have to work that much harder as it tries to hold its position with poor posture.
How far do you bend your neck when you text? According to research by Dr. Hansraj, billions of us are spending two to four hours a day in this position sending texts or reading email on our mobile devices, which will lead to excessive wear and tear on the spine, including muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs, and more. This is a perfect example of a seemingly insignificant repetitive motion that yields lasting negative results. So next time you pick up your smartphone, hold it higher, look down with your eyes, and avoid bending your neck!
1. Hansraj, K. K. 2014. “Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head.” Surg Technol Int 25:277-9.
2. Bever, Lindsey. “‘Text neck’ is becoming an ‘epidemic’ that could wreck your spine.” The Washington Post, November 20, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/textneck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreckyour-