If you're the type of person who's constantly glued to your phone, be warned: Looking down at your screen can be the equivalent of putting up to 60 pounds of extra weight on your spine, according to a new analysis published in the journal Surgical Technology International. You already know that the caved shoulders habit is bad posture and a recipe for back pain. But turns out, leaning your head forward may be another way to wreak havoc.
For the study, New York City-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj, MD, created a computer model of the human spine to see what happens as the human head, which weighs about 10 to 12 pounds on average, tilts down to check a text. The results: "As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees," he writes in the paper.
To put that in perspective, 60 pounds is about how much an average 8-year-old weighs, meaning being constantly hunched over to view a text is almost like perpetually having a child strung around your neck. Yikes!
Texting isn't the only thing to blame. Looking down to check a Facebook post or even read a story on your tablet can be just as costly for your spine. People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads looking down to read and text on their phones and devices, according to the paper. In total, that's about 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stress on the spine.
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As The Atlantic points out, physical therapists have been harping about "Text Neck" for years, but quantifying it makes it even harder to ignore.
Leaning your head forward can reduce the natural curve in your cervical spine (aka your neck), which causes stress that can lead to wear and tear, degeneration, and possibly surgery, Hansraj writes. So, now might be a good time to train yourself to put your phone away. Talk face to face, quit scrolling Instagram so much, enjoy the world around you! That, or text differently: with eyes straight ahead and your phone held out in front of you. It may look funny, but so does a back brace.