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Are your smart devices giving you neck or headache?

Most of us are working from home during this Circuit Breaker period. (“CBP”)

Presumably, you are also spending more time on your handphone or ipad. It is understandable during this period since almost everyone is cooped up at home. It could out of boredom, or the need to work using the devices.

Our smart devices these days have a built in app that tells us our daily or weekly screen time (see picture). It would be interesting to see how much time you actually spent on your devices. Interestingly, it was reported in the Straits Times on 3 April 2017 that (based on a survey done by Ernst & Young Consultancy in 2017) consumers in Singapore spend 12hr 42 min a day on average on digital devices (including 3hr 12min on mobile phone).

You might wonder why you are starting to feel your neck starting to ache more during this period, perhaps more often now than before the CBP. If you are one of them, there is a reason for that.

Looking down at your phones or ipad over a long period of time can create a lot of pressure on your neck.

In order to get an idea how your neck muscles feel, try this:

  1. Hold a 12lbs bowling ball or a heavy object directly over your head (be careful not to drop it on your head!)
  2. Move the bowling ball/object a few inches forward and away from your head and hold it there for as long as you can.
  3. Once your arms start to ache or shake, look at your watch and see how long you have been there.

Our head weighs about 12 pounds (lbs) in the neutral position, ie, when your ear is in line with the midline of your shoulder. It gets heavier with every degree you flex your neck to look at your phone.

The illustration above shows that your head can weigh up to 60lbs when you flex your neck about 60 degrees to watch movies on your phone. This prolonged posture will pull and strain the muscles that are attached to your skull. The longer these muscles remain strained, the sooner and more your neck will start to ache, just like the “bowling ball experiment”. Sometimes, one may also feel a headache developing along with the neck ache.

Additionally, repetitive spinal stresses can also lead to spinal misalignment, which can then lead to a host of symptoms. When these spinal bones become misaligned (or subluxated), muscles not only become strained; nerves can also become impinged and spinal and discs degeneration can also result over time.

As a good practice, it will be good to:

  1. Minimize time spent on the smart devices
  2. Get a stand for your smart devices (if you have to spend extended period of time on your devices)
  3. Beam your smart devices to a smart TV and watch your movies on your TV.
  4. Hold the device up closer to your eye level.
  5. Take regular breaks and go for walks (with a mask!)