Smartphone and tablet usage can cause spinal damage

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A study published in Surgical Technology International warns that using smartphones and tablets can lead to spinal damage. 

The study reports that craning of the neck and hunching over a phone can add up to 60lb (4 stone) of extra weight onto the spine. The authors of the study report: “The weight on the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgery.”

“When using smartphones and tablets…we often peer downwards with our necks bent forwards. This puts the neck in an unnatural position so that the weight of the head needs to be supported by the muscles at the back of the neck. The longer we stay in that position the more tired the muscles become leading to fatigue and muscle pain. Using an iPad or a laptop in this position with your head facing downwards, for any activity – including to send emails, watch TV or play games – for longer than 20 minutes will build up muscle strain,” explains Damian Fahy, consultant spinal surgeon at The Lister Hospital, London.

It is recommended that people using smartphones and tablets should take regular breaks and try to keep the device at eye-level, reducing potential fatigue on the neck. Fahy does note that: “Although the pain can be intense, it is unlikely to cause long-term structural damage to the spine. Structural damage is more likely to be a result of genetic factors or a history of injury or trauma to the spine.”

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