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Using Your Smartphone Too Often Can Wreck Your Spine, Research Finds

Using Your Smartphone Too Often Can Wreck Your Spine, Research Finds

We are all guilty of checking our smartphones at every opportunity but are we really thinking about how the process of looking down at our phones is affecting our spine and back health?

“Text neck” is fast becoming one of the major causes of neck pain and we probably aren’t even aware of it. The modern epidemic is becoming a major concern for health experts including Kenneth Hansraj who has recently published new research into the detrimental effects our smartphones are having on our spines including wear-and-tear, bad posture and even corrective surgery.

How Checking Our Phones Affects The Spine

Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, explains the impact constantly texting, emailing and checking social media from our phones really has on the back and spine. He explains that the average head weighs around 5.4 kg, our body is able to support this weight efficiently with good, straight posture but as we move the neck forward, the weight on the spine increases at each angle.

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    With each angle, the amount of weight increases and puts immense pressure on our spine and back muscles. With a 60 degree neck angle, it’s a 60lb (around 27kg) weight pressure on the spine – to put that into context that’s like having an average 7 year-old child around your neck every time you look right down at your phone. For many of us that’s for several hours each day.

    It can also exacerbate an underlying condition such as pinched nerves or herniated discs as well as causing tension headaches.

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    What Can We Do To Counteract This?

    Let’s face it, asking people to stop checking their phones is a big ask but being mindful of bringing your phone upwards so the neck angle isn’t as significant will make a big difference.

    However, there are simple exercises we can perform that you can do daily in order to help correct and negate the damage from text neck. Peforming these throughout the day will improve your posture, stretch out your back and spine, and promote a healthy alignment.

    1. Shoulder Blade Pinches

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      The slouching action we form when checking our phones is one of the major causes of neck pain. To counteract the slumping forward of the shoulders it’s good to force them back to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the upper back.

      • Sitting or standing with your back straight, draw your shoulder blades towards each other. You can interlock your hands behind your back for maximum stretch.
      • Hold this for a few seconds, release and repeat.
      • Try to perform 10 reps every hour throughout the day.

      2. Chin Tuck

      screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-6-57-50-pm

        This exercise is great for strengthening your neck muscles and also pulls the neck right back in to align with your back.

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        • Stand tall or sit up straight while sitting, keeping your chin parallel to the floor.
        • Gently draw your head and chin back like you’re creating a double chin. You can use your fingers to push your chin back but make sure your head is facing forward and tilting in any direction.
        • Doing this gently, you should feel a stretch along the back of the neck.
        • Release your chin and repeat.
        • Do around 10 reps each hour.

        3. Doorway Stretch

        screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-6-57-58-pm

          You can stretch out your back muscles by making use of any doorway. This move counteracts the sunken chest from too much slouching.

          • Stand inside a doorway, bend your right arm at a 90 degree angle and place your forearm on the doorframe.
          • Position your bent elbow at shoulder height and rotate your chest left. You should feel a stretch in your chest and front shoulder.
          • Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
          • Do this as often as possible throughout the day.

          4. Pec Stretch

          As with the exercise above you can also use both arms at the same time to get both a stretch around the front of your chest and straighten and align your shoulders to promote a straight spine.

          • Standing in the doorway with one leg out in front of you, place your arms at 90 degrees on each side.
          • Slowly push forward so you draw your shoulder blades together and feel a stretch along the front of your chest.
          • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat throughout the day.

          While checking our phones is a habit that’s hard to break, remember to be mindful of how often you do it and the position of your neck. Bring your phone up to eye-level as much as possible or now that you’re aware of the damage you could be doing to your neck and spine, try to make a conscious effort to check your phone less during the day.

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          Jenny Marchal

          A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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          Last Updated on March 25, 2020

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

          So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

          1. Exercise

          It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

          2. Drink in Moderation

          I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

          3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

          Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

          4. Watch Less Television

          A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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          Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

          5. Eat Less Red Meat

          Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

          If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

          6. Don’t Smoke

          This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

          7. Socialize

          Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

          8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

          Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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          9. Be Optimistic

          Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

          10. Own a Pet

          Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

          11. Drink Coffee

          Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

          12. Eat Less

          Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

          13. Meditate

          Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

          Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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          How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

          14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

          Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

          15. Laugh Often

          Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

          16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

          Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

          17. Cook Your Own Food

          When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

          Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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          18. Eat Mushrooms

          Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

          19. Floss

          Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

          20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

          Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

          Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

          21. Have Sex

          Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

          More Health Tips

          Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

          Reference

          [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
          [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
          [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
          [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
          [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
          [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
          [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
          [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
          [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
          [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
          [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
          [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
          [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
          [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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