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Is your phone becoming pain in the neck?

If you’re like most Canadians, you probably spend a good portion of your day glued to the screen of a mobile device. Ownership of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers has skyrocketed in recent years, ushering in major changes to the ways we live and work. But however much you may love your iPhone, Android or iPad, it could be putting serious strain on your neck and back without you even knowing it.

Female student texting from her cell phone at the university
This “iPain,” as it has come to be known, all comes down to posture. When you spend prolonged periods of time looking down at a phone or tablet, your cervical vertebrae (the stack of small spinal bones in your neck) and neck muscles are forced too far forward, and have to support the weight of your head. This can cause strain or injury to your muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and spinal disks. Numerous studies in the last few years have shown a strong correlation between mobile device use and increased incidence of neck aches, numbness, shoulder tension, and tension headaches.

Luckily for us, iPain is entirely preventable. Here are five tips to ensure you’re not putting any unnecessary strain on your neck when texting, gaming, reading, or watching videos on the go:

  • When you’re up and about, make sure to hold your device at a high enough angle. Ideally, it should be as close to eye-level as possible, allowing you to hold your head upright.
  • If you’re using a tablet, invest in an ergonomic case with a built-in stand. This will help you keep the device at a comfortable viewing angle on the table or desk, preferably around 45 degrees.
  • When using a device while seated, remember to shift your hands and body weight regularly, and periodically switch between seated and standing positions.
  • Take breaks. Every 15 or 20 minutes, put the device away and roll your shoulders, loosen up your neck, or even take a walk. This will not only help prevent neck soreness, but also improves circulation.
  • If you’re using an e-reader in bed or on the sofa, lean back and use pillows to support your neck and back in a comfortable position.

And if you’re still having problems after implementing these steps, call your physical therapist so they can help you avoid making matters worse.