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Texters beware: tips for easing the pressure on your spine

Woman hunched on phone, texting

Be mindful of your posture while texting – it can be hard on your spine.

Attention Texters: You may have seen the recent image circulating on the web – a diagram of what a hunched-over texting “stance” does to your spine.

I saw the diagram as I hunched over my phone on the bus. Oops. It got me thinking.

The diagram was published in the journal Surgical Technology and then shared by news outlets all over. New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj published the study, which looks at the force put on the spine when the head tilts forward (like when you text).

Basically, the diagram and study suggest that when we stoop over to text or look at our phones, we are putting about 60 lbs of pressure on our necks and spines.

That doesn’t sound good to me (an avid texter and reader – same stance!)

So, I spoke with Dhwanish Vaidya, a physical therapist at Sunnybrook to hear his opinions on the topic and to find out if there’s anything we should do to minimize the strain on our spines.

He said, anecdotally, he has seen more people complaining of these kinds of woes – likely related in part to lots of downward looking – in the past few years. He says he’s glad the topic has been highlighted in the news.

Plus, he added, it’s not just strain on the neck and back we have to think about. Our heavy, hanging skulls can actually cause strain on our shoulders and arms too.

Dhwanish has a few tips for minimizing the strain on our necks and backs:

Don’t let your head hang low:

When looking down to text (or read), pull your chin in, more like you are nodding ‘yes’ rather than hanging it right down. Also try to hold your mobile device up slightly rather than tucked right into your body.

Look up. Way up:

Every 45 minutes, take a break to look up. “We spend a lot of time looking down and we don’t take a break from doing this,” Dhwanish says. “Take a moment to roll your head and look up.” This goes for anyone, anytime. Chefs chopping vegetables. Kids doing homework. Take a moment to look up. (I’ve put my phone to good use and set a recurring reminder!)

Sit back:

When sitting in your car or on the subway, try to have your head and shoulders touch the head rest. “This makes sure you are relieving some of the strain on your neck by taking a break from forward head posture,” Dhwanish says. (I’m transported back to my childhood and my mom’s most oft-uttered phrase, “Sit up straight!” I guess she’s right. Don’t tell her I said that.)

Roll those shoulders:

“Do shoulder roll exercises and pull your shoulder blades back,” Dhwanish says. “This helps loosen those muscles and joints.”

If you have been inactive, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist before starting any exercise.

Dhwanish has another important note: Shoulder, neck or back pain can be caused by a number of issues. If you experience any pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist.


About the author


Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.