Pop quiz: Are you currently reading this while hunched over your phone? If so, here’s a very scary wakeup call: Looking down at your phone can force up to 60 pounds of weight on your spine, according to a new study in the journal Surgical Technology International.
Most people spend an average of two to four hours a day slumped over their smartphones, according to the study, and that awkward position isn’t doing any favors for your neck and back.
The adult head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, so when you’re standing upright with perfect posture, that’s the amount of stress that’s on your spine. According to the new research, tilting your head forward increases the amount of stress—and therefore weight—on your spine. When you tilt just 15 degrees forward, that’s about 27 pounds; at 30 degrees, it’s 40 pounds; at 45 degrees, it’s 49 pounds; and at 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds of stress.
Not only can that cause a literal pain in your neck, but it also puts stress on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, writes study author Kenneth K. Hansraj, M.D., chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine.
But as scary as this image is, we know you won’t be throwing out your phone, tablet, or e-reader anytime soon. That’s fine, just be sure to use it with proper posture, which means your ears are aligned with your shoulders and your shoulder blades are back in the neutral position. Yes, this means putting your phone pretty much directly in front of your face, but at least you won’t be dealing with a seriously stiff neck 20 years from now.