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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

          Freelance Writer

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          Last Updated on March 13, 2019

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

          You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

          Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

          1. Work on the small tasks.

          When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

          Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

          2. Take a break from your work desk.

          Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

          Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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          3. Upgrade yourself

          Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

          The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

          4. Talk to a friend.

          Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

          Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

          5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

          If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

          Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

          Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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          6. Paint a vision to work towards.

          If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

          Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

          Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

          7. Read a book (or blog).

          The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

          Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

          Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

          8. Have a quick nap.

          If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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          9. Remember why you are doing this.

          Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

          What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

          10. Find some competition.

          Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

          Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

          11. Go exercise.

          Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

          Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

          As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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          Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

          12. Take a good break.

          Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

          Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

          Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

          Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

          More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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