Combine people with a technology device in hand reading, texting, taking a selfie, with the overstuffed, improperly worn backpacks and we are setting ourselves up for some serious probems. These poorly worn and over used devices are putting undue stress on our spine and nervous system affecting the structure, function and physiology of our bodies.
The spine is made up of 24 bones. When flexible and aligned, the spine is designed to resist the heaviest of loads. A loss of this flexibility and alignment combined with repetitive heavy loads and the spine becomes weakened and subject to premature degeneration, pain, and stiffness. This compromised structure and function over time will increase our susceptibility to sudden injury and even sickness.
Research proves that weakened spinal health and posture leads to an imbalance in hormones. A study from 2014 showed that repetitive poor posture, particularly of the head and neck, caused low testosterone, reduced serotonin (behavior/wellness hormone), increased cortisol (stress hormone) and more. In the 2014 study, published in the Surgical Technology International Journal, billions of people were found to be using cell phone devices daily. Stresses on the spine from constantly looking down at a cell phone is very damaging to short and long term health. This study evaluated forward head flexion stress on the human spine and corresponding body function. The findings were remarkable:
*The study assessed the forces placed on the spine as the head is tilted forward into worsening posture.
*The study evaluated the stress using an average head weight of 13.2 pounds
*The weight added to the spine dramatically increases when flexing for varying degrees. 0° increased weight on the neck by 10 to 12 pounds. 15° increased weight on the neck by 27 pounds. 30° increased the weight on the neck by 40 pounds. 45° increased the weight on the neck by 49pounds. And 60° increased the weight on the neck by 60 pounds.
*Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine (neck) leads to increased stresses on the cervical spine. The stress may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.
*Good posture for the head and neck is when the ears are aligned with the shoulders (and your shoulders retracted and not rolled forward). With proper alignment, stress on the head and neck is reduced.
*Good posture was associated with much more than just the presence or absence of pain. Good posture helped increase good hormones. Good posture was linked to higher testosterone, increases in serotonin, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power. Poor posture is associated with reductions in testosterone levels, reduced serotonin, increased cortisol, and reduced feelings of power.
*Poor posture is when the head tilts forward and the shoulders are drooping forward in a rounded position.
*An average person spends 2 to 4 hours a day with their heads tilted forward for reading and texting on their smart phones, amassing 700 to 1400 hours of excess wear-and-tear and stress on cervical spine(neck) per year. It was also noted that a high school student might even spend an extra 5000 hours in poor posture per year.
Beyond spinal and muscle injuries, poor posture influences all aspects of human performance through the endocrine system (hormonal system). As evidenced through this research, poor posture negatively influences levels of testosterone, serotonin, cortisol, and feelings of power. As technology continues to govern more and more of our daily life, the need for practitioners who positively influence posture increases. Unfortunately, most people still believe that poor posture is more of a cosmetic issue than a health issue. Because of this, awareness and education is the key to making change.
Chiropractors are key leaders to improving quality and longevity of life for all individuals by improving health and function through postural alignment.
Quick tips to minimize the costly damages of technology and backpacks.
Surgical Technology International Journal 2014 Nov;25: 277-9. Hansraj, KK.