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Mobile phones causing 'overuse injury epidemic'

By Dr Damien Mouellic

Smart phones and tablet computers are becoming - quite literally - a national pain in the neck.

Millions of people all over the world are using their mobile devices dozens of times a day, arching their necks as they stare downwards to send a message or search for information online. In fact, it's estimated the average, technology-dependant person spends up to four hours a day hunched over some sort of mobile or computer screen.

The result? Extreme pressure on the cervical spine that can quickly manifest into nagging pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back. Left untreated, the condition invariably leads to chronic degeneration of cartilage and bone.

We are in the grip of an overuse injury epidemic as our reliance on new technology such as mobile phones and tablets escalates."People just don't realise the havoc they are wreaking on their neck and shoulders through bad posture and repetitive strain when using mobile devices. I know we can't live without technology but the nation is in for a whole lot of pain - physical and financial - if we fail to take action to counter this very real health risk."

To better understand the amount of stress that can be placed on your neck and shoulders when using your mobile device, consider that the average adult head weighs about 5kg. That's the equivalent to the bulk of a bowling ball, so imagine the stress on the neck and shoulders as you peer down at your smart phone and tablet. Multiply that by four hours a day and the potential for crippling injury becomes obvious.

"A recent study showed that if we bend our head forward 60 degrees, it's equal to 27kg of force on your necks. That's like having a small child sit on your neck while sending a text! People tend to spend between two and four hours a day either reading or texting on their mobile phones or other hand held devices. That adds up to 700 to 1400 hours per year of additional neck stress."The equation is even worse for young people.

It has been estimated that some high school students can spend up to 6500 hours a year on mobile devices - all the time never thinking about a good posture as they become deeply absorbed in their mobile phones or tablet computer.

Neck, shoulder and back damage are not the only adverse effects. Some youngsters are developing RSI of the thumb because of overuse while others complain of headaches and blurred vision because they are starring at a screen far too long.

Kids are Starting to develop serious physical injuries from overuse of smartphones and tablets. Damage to tendons caused by overuse is really hard to repair and it's even harder for children and teens to recover from this type of injury because their bodies are growing so fast.

By Doctor of Osteopathy Dr. Damien Mouellic. Article first published in

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