Stop for a moment. Hold still. Now, describe your posture.
The answer to this question likely tells a lot about your health, especially if you are using a mobile device. And, let’s face it, you probably are.
In fact, a recent study of smartphone users found they spent an average of two-to-four hours a day in 2014 hunched over their devices sending texts and checking social media. That’s between 700 and 1,400 hours a year, enough time to fly from New York to Los Angeles more than 115 times.
Proper posture—always important—is particularly critical when using a mobile device. It helps prevent the onset of text neck, a set of health issues ranging from chronic headaches to shoulder and neck pain, brought on by mobile device users holding their upper backs and necks in awkward positions for long periods of time.
You may know the poses and resulting soreness firsthand. But you need to truly understand the seriousness of the potential health problems that can result. Keeping the back and neck in odd positions can:
- Lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, disc degeneration, muscle weakness, and even nerve damage
- Reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent
- Cause headaches, neurological issues, depression, and heart disease
The chief culprit in bringing on these maladies is leaning your head forward and down when you use a hand-held device. True, we have always looked down. But mobile devices multiply the time our backs spend in awkward positions.
As a leading provider of commercial insurance, Liberty Mutual Insurance works with our commercial policyholders every day to help improve the safety of their employees in order to prevent the injuries that spark claims.
Here are four tips for maintaining the posture that will help prevent the long-term health implications of “text neck:”
- Look down at your mobile device with your eyes
- Don’t bend your neck to see the screen
- Remember that posture follows vision so hold the mobile device at—or slightly below—eye level and avoid flexing the neck and head forward
- Anchor elbows to your side to help prevent fatigue from holding the phone at eye level too long
This article was produced by Liberty Mutual and not by the Quartz editorial staff.