Beware of Texting Fear Mongering

Reference:Hansraj KK. Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surg Technol Int. 2014 Nov;25:277-9.

This recent paper that regrettably got a lot of media attention (TV and radio) simply looked at the loads placed on the cervical spine during various angles of neck flexion simulating the typical looking down posture while texting.

Using badly explained biomechanical calculations they published a paper on something we intuitively knew as PTs.

Basically at 0� of neck flexion the load on the cervical spine is approximately 10lbs which is the actual weight of the head.

At 15� of neck flexion the load increased to 27lbs.

At 30� of neck flexion the load increased to 40lbs.

And finally by 60� of neck flexion (which the most typical angle seen on people while texting and crossing the street), the load on the cervical spine increased to 60lbs.

The reason the load is not felt immediately while texting is that the spine is extremely adaptable and soon that posture feels “normal” and “comfortable”.

Assuming that a typical person spends at least 2 hours a day looking down at their smart phone (a conservative estimate) equates to over 700 hours of sustained neck flexion a year. After 5 years of texting there is now over 3000 hours of sustained stress on the posterior neck structures.

Moral of the story: Instead of always looking down at your smart phone, once in a while lift the phone up so it is in front of your eyes. Also do NOT text while walking or when crossing the street. If you get hit by a car, you’ll have more than just neck pain.

Now the other side of the story: Human beings have been looking down since we started eating, cooking, reading, and playing chess.

I got really annoyed when I heard the author of the paper getting media attention by fear mongering on the evening news. With no substantial evidence, he boldly claimed that texting could lead to arthritis, degeneration and even surgeries …what nonsense!

Posted on: July 03, 2015

Categories: Cervical Spine

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