Next time you send a text message, I want you to pay close attention to something important. No, not the autocorrect. I'm referring to your posture. A new study published in the journal Surgical Technology International has found that, depending on how you look at your phone, you could be putting the equivalent of 60 pounds of pressure on your spine! Knowing that an adult's head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds on its own, researchers calculated the amount of additional pressure caused by tilting the head at different angles (as many of us do when we're hunched over our phones), to find the weight felt by the spine in each position.
According to the study, we each spend about two to four hours a day looking at smartphones or tablets, or with our heads lowered to read books or e-readers. All of that can put a lot of stress on your neck and spine. (When you do the math, it adds up to more than a thousand hours a year—or much more if you're a heavy reader or technology user.)
Want to avoid the pain that doctors refer to as text neck? Next time you're looking at your phone, try to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, or have a loved one check out your posture for you. Is your head... -Perfectly aligned? If your neck is open and your ears are in line with your shoulders, you're supporting the bare minimum of 10 to 12 pounds. -Slightly tilted? At about a 15-degree tilt, you've already increased the weight on your spine to 27 pounds. -Tilted downward? If your head's hanging just 30 degrees, your spine is feeling about 40 pounds. -Slumped? At 45 degrees, your spine is getting 49 pounds of pressure. -Hanging low? If you're bent 60 degrees forward, your spine is dealing with a whopping 60 pounds of force.
If you don't do so well on the test, give yourself some gentle reminders to keep your head straight. You can even program some posture prompting into your cellphone! And if you're already feeling the pain in your neck, try these upper-back relaxing exercises.