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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

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        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

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          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 January 3, 2020

          The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

          The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

          Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

          The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

          1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

          Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

           I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

          To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

          And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

           2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

          Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

          3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

          Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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          4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

          The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

          5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

          Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

          6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

          Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

          7. Positive people smile a lot!

          When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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          8. People who are positive are great communicators.

          They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

          9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

          One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

          10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

          Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

          How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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          I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

          Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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