Your smartphone could be giving you back and neck pain


Long-term use of smartphones and laptops while seated or lying on the bed in an improper position causes degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis and pain in the fingers, wrist, neck, and back.

New Delhi: Long-term use of smartphones and laptops while seated or lying on the bed in an improper position leads to pain in the fingers, wrists, neck, and back and degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis. Such jointures were previously only observed in people over 40, but now people in their 20s also notice them.

On average, close to 10-15% of the 150 new patients who visit the rheumatology department of AIIMS each day have such lifestyle disorders. According to Prof (Dr) Uma Kumar, the department’s head, she examines some patients daily in the OPD who have neck and back pain due to poor posture.

Studies show that a kg weight gain causes the pressure on the hips and knees to increase by six and three times, respectively. When using a smartphone, a person bends at a 15° angle, which increases the pressure on the neck and spine by 11 kg.

Similarly, using a smartphone while looking down at 30 degrees puts 18 kg of pressure on the neck and spine of the user. Keep your head up and raise your phone or laptop to your face rather than lowering it, advised Dr. Kumar. According to her, “when the neck and shoulders move forward, the muscles in the front get tighter and the muscles on the back side get weaker, so over time a person is reinforcing a muscle imbalance.”

She claimed that many patients sought treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritis at the OPD. Dr. Kumar said, “During evaluation, it was discovered that they were not affected with any of these diseases and were only affected with lifestyle-related disorders.” He added that they referred such patients to occupational therapists for advice on proper posture and lifestyle changes.

Dr. Kumar shared a case study in which a 23-year-old male executive who works in a call centre visited her OPD complaining of back pain, tingling and numbness in his right-hand fingers, and stiffness in his upper trunk.

She stated, “After thorough investigation, we found that it was related to his bad posture and use of mobile phone and keyboard for long hours,” adding that the young man had told the doctors that he was handling multiple calls at his place of employment and was constantly using his mobile phone. He no longer experiences pain after six months of adopting lifestyle changes. He was, however, identified as having ankylosing spondylitis.

Dr. Kumar advised people to be mindful of their posture. She suggested, “Stand up straight and make a conscious effort to resist slouching,” adding that people typically begin to make changes after experiencing severe pain. She suggested ergonomic workspace arrangements and instructed users to sit in a chair with an armrest, position their elbow at 90 degrees on the table, and set the monitor in front of them, about an arm’s length away. The screen’s top should be at or just below eye level. Your keyboard should be directly behind the monitor. Additionally, a break of at least 20 seconds is required after 20 minutes of nonstop work.