Smart Phone Syndrome as I call it or Text Neck Syndrome, has become a major problem around the world.  Amazingly we have a new “syndrome” created on a weekly basis for symptoms never seen by the medical community. Smart Phone Syndrome (SPS) is a result of 75% of the world’s population being hunched over their handheld devices with their heads flexed forward. This in conjunction with an already sedentary, computer using, tv watching lifestyle is the perfect recipe for a life of pain and dysfunction. Of the 6 billion people in the world, over 4 billion have phones. On average Americans spend 2.7 hours per day communicating on their phones and this does not include web searching. SPS is a real syndrome that I see on a daily basis in my profession and unfortunately happening not only in adults but young children at an alarming rate.

What is Smart Phone Syndrome?

SPS is a term to describe the repeated stress to the body (especially the neck) caused by excessive typing on handheld electronic devices. The syndrome usually begins in the cervical spine (neck) with the repeated stress of frequent forward head flexion while looking down at the screen of the handheld device for long periods of time; but since the entire body is connected via the fascia, SPS can be the direct cause of many other conditions. The average human head weighs 10-12 lb., as it is angled down to look at a phone, the effective weight on the neck increases.  0° = 12 lb., 15° = 27 lb., 30° = 40 lb., 45° = 49 lb. 60° = 60 lb.  At 60 lb. imagine carrying an 8 year old around your neck several hours a day!

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Image from Surgical Technology

Smart Phone Syndrome Symptoms

The frequent forward flexion causes changes in the cervical spine curve resulting in a straight cervical spine or even a reverse of curve. This directly affects the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles. The most common symptoms are pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands and fingers.  Another very common symptom is a headache. However, because of the fascial link SPS can eventually lead to: TMJ symptoms, carpal tunnel symptoms, arthritis, disc injury, thoracic and lumbar spine pathology, decreased lung volume, gastrointestinal problems like constipation, circulatory problems due to compression of the heart and other vital blood vessels, decreased immune system due to the altered pumping of lymph and the list goes on. I failed to mention that your head may actually fall off your body! 🙂

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Measuring Forward Head Posture

At H3 we measure forward head posture using a device developed by Paul Chek. Normal forward head posture using this device is 0-3 cm. In the last several years I have actually measured people with 7 to 8 cm of forward head posture. Here is a photo during the measurement process.

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I have Smart Phone Syndrome …. What can be done?

There are so many approaches to correcting and preventing SPS. The first and most important is changing daily ergonomics. Holding the smart phone higher and utilizing proper sitting mechanics is of utmost importance for the corrective exercise to be effective. Click this link for an easy office ergonomics guide.

Correction For Smart Phone Syndrome

As a physical therapist, C.H.E.K faculty and student to French osteopath Guy Voyer, I have been exposed to many techniques that improve and prevent Smart Phone Syndrome.  First, manual therapy to pump and lubricate the cervical spine, followed by specific stretches to elongate the short tight muscles and corrective exercise to strengthen the long weak muscles.  When these techniques are followed up with proprioception and ELDOA exercises, the results are amazing!

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Contact The H3 Training and Learning Center Today

If you have questions regarding Smart Phone Syndrome, contact the H3 learning center today for your free consultation. SPS is real and affecting young and old. If you have children and notice their head is dropping forward of their body, now is the time to act before it is too late.

Better Body. Better Neck. Better Life.

Dan Hellman, MSPT, CHEK Faculty