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How Phone Use Affects Posture and Health

Because a phone has become a necessity, learn how to safeguard your health while using it.

We have reached a point where over 5 billion people in the world now rely on phones and mobile devices on a regular basis. It is to be expected that such an increase in phone use can, over time, detrimentally affect our posture. This is especially true for people who spend over 4 hours a day texting and using phone apps.

Our chiropractic office has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions from our patients that are related to using a phone regularly. We hope that the answers will be helpful for maintaining and improving your health.

Is it better to stand or sit when I’m using my phone?

Being sedentary for too many hours isn’t healthy for your heart, joints, muscles, or digestion. If you find that you are spending a great deal of time being seated while you’re using the phone, take a break and stand or walk. Make a point of standing occasionally while you text, check an app, or speak on the phone. Be mindful of your posture so that you aren’t slouching.

Is it helpful for me to use a phone grip / phone holder / pop-out holder button on the back of my phone?

If the phone holder fits your hand and fingers correctly, many people report that this makes holding their phone more comfortable. Our female patients with smaller hands often tell us that a pop out button enables them to hold a larger, heavier phone more securely. A phone grip often makes it less likely to drop the phone (or injure yourself trying to catch a falling phone). If you enjoy using a phone holder, continue to use it.

How can using a phone affect my neck and shoulders?

It’s easy to fall into the unhealthy habit of slouching or angling your neck too far forward when you check your phone, especially when you are tired or distracted. Over time this can cause muscle fatigue and lasting damage to your skeleton. Try to keep your neck from bending too far forward. Hold the phone high enough that you don’t constantly lean towards it.

Can using a phone give me headaches?

Yes, but only in certain situations. For example, headaches can occur from using your cell phone in low light settings causing eye strain. Another type of headache, called a tension headache, can arise from keeping your neck angled forward for an extended amount of time. If you are also prone to migraines, cell phone use can exacerbate or trigger a migraine.

Can texting on a phone injure my thumbs?

Most thumb injuries from phone use are due to repetitive or over-use situations. Texter’s Thumb (sometimes called de Quervain's tenosynovitis) is caused by using the thumbs to text message for hours at a time. This can cause pain near the base of the thumb where it connects to the wrist. If you suspect that you may have Texter’s Thumb, try to take a break from texting or use a voice app. Then schedule an appointment with your chiropractor or family doctor.

Is it worse to use my phone while in bed compared to using my phone while seated?

It is very difficult to have good posture while lying in bed and using your phone. If you are on your stomach, it will put pressure on the back of the neck and shoulders. Using your phone while lying in bed with a pillow behind your head can cause tightness in the neck. Depending on how you hold the phone, it can cause your arms to be positioned over your head and also put pressure on the shoulders and arms.

Will using my phone before bed affect my sleep pattern?

Using your phone before bed can stimulate your nervous system and keep you from falling asleep. When you do fall asleep, you may not be able to enter all four stages of sleep. This will cause you to wake up groggy and tired. It is best to stop your phone use one hour before going to bed. You may need to let others know that if you are contacted after a certain time, you will return their message the following morning.

How close should my eyes be to my phone screen?

If you need to keep the phone close to your face due to problems with your vision, then you may need to visit the optometrist. Sometimes increasing the text size can enable you to keep the phone further away. Having the phone screen too close to your eyes can cause neck and shoulder strain. It can also cause eyestrain and headaches.

We have had patients injure their neck when they are awakened suddenly by their phone and twist / reach for their phone before getting out of bed. How can this be avoided?

This type of injury occurs when you twist, bend, or move too quickly before your muscles have had a chance to warm up. It will cause a “pinch” or “kink” in the neck or upper back. In a perfect world, you would wait a few moments after the phone wakes you, in order to give your neck, back, and shoulders time to stretch before you reached for the phone. At the very least, you should make sure that the phone is easily accessible, so that you don’t need to reach around or across objects to answer the phone when you are barely awake. Try to sit up in bed before reaching for the phone. This provides healthier biomechanics for your joints and muscles, and reduces the chance of injury.

Do you think I am using my phone too much?

We hate to tell people this, but if you are concerned about how much time you are spending with your phone, you should probably start keeping track of your hours of phone use per day. Schedule some technology-free times. There are apps that can be scheduled to block social media / intrusive programs during hours that you either wish to spend working or with your family. There are also apps designed for time-management that can help your time be more productive.

Can I use my phone to help my fitness level?

Fitness trackers are helpful apps that can help improve your blood-oxygen levels and heart health. There are apps that offer positive motivation as well as apps that help you keep track of your diet and exercise goals.

What stretches can I do to strengthen my neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles?

A simple morning routine can be brief yet effective. Focus on large groups of muscles such as your legs, chest, low back and upper back/neck. Strengthening your core and warming up these important muscle regions can protect you from injury.

How can I tell if my posture is being negatively affected by using my phone and other mobile devices?

Look at yourself in the mirror. Are your shoulders level or does one appear to be closer to your ear than the other. Is one pant leg shorter than the other? When you place your hands on your hips, is one hip higher than the other? Have a friend or family member take a picture of you from the side. Does your head seem to be angled too far forward? Does your posture appear to be symmetrical? You can check your child's posture in a similar way.

How can chiropractic treatment improve my posture and prevent me from getting over-use injuries from spending time on my phone?

Chiropractic is especially good to help with posture corrections, such as incorrect posture due to prolonged phone use. A chiropractor can check your spine and skeleton for postural muscle and joint irritation. Scheduling chiropractic appointments throughout the year can keep your joints healthy and strong.

As you can see, you can use your phone for hours of enjoyment if you take the proper steps to prevent the negative effects of phone-overuse. Be mindful of your stance and posture while using the phone. Be aware of how, when, and where you are using your phone. Because a phone is a necessity in today’s fast-paced world, it is important to understand how to use it without suffering any ill effects.

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