Dangers of the Smartphone ‘Slouch’

Smartphones, as with anything revolutionary, are bound to have some drawbacks – including neck pain.

There is little debate that smartphones have revolutionized the way people communicate. These devices have brought a plethora of benefits to the world. However, they have also brought specific health concerns, including those that seriously affect the spine. Here’s what you should know about the smartphone ‘slouch.’

How the Smartphone ‘Slouch’ Is Wrecking Your Neck
You may have heard somewhere that the human head weighs approximately 10 to 12 pounds, so it’s rather heavy. Did you also know that the weight of your head increases progressively in tandem with how many degrees you tilt it forward? It’s true. If you lean over as far as 60 degrees forward, the weight of your head radically increases to the equivalent of 60 pounds. The rule of thumb is that for every inch your head is tilted forward, the tilt places 10 pounds of pressure on your shoulders.

Most people tend to slouch over somewhat while using their smartphones. Unfortunately, that sort of unnatural posture, especially when consistent, is exceptionally harsh on your neck and your back and puts considerable strain on both.

More specifically, the tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the cervical spine (in your neck), as well as the intervertebral discs of your neck, take on damage from extended slouching over your phone.

Your posture isn’t just crucial in terms of aesthetics. Poor posture resulting from hovering over a smartphone can cause significant bouts of pain in both your back and your neck.

Why You Should Take the Smartphone ‘Slouch’ Seriously
Many young people in good health are apt to dismiss the health concerns surrounding the concept of slouching over smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

Some of the other health problems that can develop from slouching over a smartphone for long periods include carpal tunnel syndrome, circulation complications, heartburn, and pain in your knees.

One can also incur severe digestive problems because when the body hunches over, the internal organs are essentially squished together, impeding proper digestion. Breathing can also become more complicated, and the lungs won’t get as much air because they also compress when slouching excessively.

So, it isn’t only the neck that bears the brunt of the smartphone slouch. The other health risks are quite real and shouldn’t be dismissed. It is best to avoid the risks altogether by exercising good posture, when utilizing a screened device, and always.

Of course, many people, especially the young among us, can be expected to protest any potential threat to using their devices. In their defense, smartphones and tablets aren’t the only things that can cause spine health or posture problems. Books can cause the same issues when a person leans over to read one.

Posture Perfect, How to Avoid the Smartphone Slouch
If I’ve gotten your attention thus far, please know that I am not advocating a ban on smartphones. Though I do believe everyone should take a break from excessive staring at a screen, you can still use it for hours on end to your heart’s content as long as you’re spinal positioning is correct. The key is to practice good posture as it will help alleviate and otherwise avoid the strain on your back and neck.

Rather than hunching forward over the phone like it’s a campfire, hold it up to your face at eye level. As long as the phone or tablet is at eye level, your back and neck will remain in line. For many, it can take some time to adjust to this different way of holding a smartphone. For whatever reason, slouching over our phones seems natural, but your body and your spine would wholeheartedly disagree.

Eyes on the Prize – Better Spine Health
The consequences of slouching over your phone can include debilitating neck and back pain and other complications that can become chronic until you make sufficient effort to improve your posture. The takeaway here is that you should always remember to hold your smartphone at eye level and sit up straight. As with many other things we have created that have changed our world, there is almost always a right and a wrong way to use them. Smartphones included.


Neel Anand, MD

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