Neck Pain

Device Overuse and Neck Pain

When people use their smartphone, tablet or laptop, they frequently adopt an awkward posture in which their head rests on their shoulders. This forward head pose, or “text neck,” puts additional pressure on the spine, arms, and upper back muscles which can contribute to musculoskeletal discomfort. Researchers are also studying how the use of electronic devices impacts posture, which may raise the risk of spine, shoulders and upper back pain.

In a report conducted in 2018 by University of Nevada, researchers from Las Vegas analysed survey results from 412 university students, employees, faculty and alumni about their use of mobile and tablets and related musculoskeletal symptoms. The study team found that 55 per cent of daily users reported at least mild neck and shoulder pain rates, which is greater than the general population. In fact, 10 per cent of the frequent users in the study reported serious device-related neck and/or shoulder pain. Just about half (46 per cent), however, said that they stopped using their device when they felt discomfort.

The researchers added that regular device users, particularly younger people with no dedicated workspace, often used their device in awkward positions, such as sitting on the floor with their legs folded, or laying on their stomach or side while looking down at their device. These postures can place undue stress on the spine, shoulders and upper back, leading to pain and musculoskeletal discomfort.

The study team also observed that women were more than twice as likely to experience device-related pain (70 per cent versus 30%). While this can be explained in part by women being more likely to sit on the floor with their legs crossed while using their device (77% vs. 23%), the researchers hypothesise that the anatomical differences between men and women may be a primary driver of the disparity.  Women also have slimmer arms and fewer body mass / strength. Their shorter arms and narrower shoulders, while typing on their device, may also result in more extreme postural stress.

Such results worry researchers as tablets are becoming more common for family, educational, and company use, which in the years to come could put a greater burden on the health care system. Experts recommend sitting in a chair with back support to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal pain associated with tablet use; placing the screen slightly below eye level; using an external keyboard; typing at 90 degrees with the elbows bent; taking mini breaks to stretch; and performing forward posture correction exercises.

If you continue to experience pain associated with device use, consult with us at your earliest convenience. Book online here