7 Common Postural Problems Caused by Excessive Mobile Device Use

Owning a smartphone is a good thing, especially in this day and age. It makes life more convenient, so it’s understandable if you constantly use it. However, too much of anything can have adverse effects. Excessive phone usage poses health risks, particularly to your posture.

Like many people, you may be suffering from postural issues without knowing how closely related they are to your smartphone habits. This blog aims to identify and address seven common postural problems caused by excessive mobile device use.

Text Neck

Typically, you lean forward and look down when using your phone. It seems like a harmless move, but doing it frequently and for too long can strain your neck and cause pain or injury. That’s what “text neck” is, a global epidemic especially prevalent among students.

man with text neck holding his neck from pain

Text neck causes the cervical spine to degenerate due to poor head posture and frequent stress. The symptoms of text neck include 

  • tight and stiff neck and shoulders, 
  • persistent headache, 
  • sharp neck pain
  • fatigue, 
  • eye pain, 
  • muscle pain and soreness, and 
  • nausea. 

If left unaddressed, severe text neck may trigger other health conditions such as arthritis, restricted lung capacity, or long-term cervical spine damage.

Rounded Shoulders

Many people have gotten used to slouching when using smartphones. They often hunch their shoulders to look down on the screen for long periods, straining the muscles and gradually developing rounded shoulders.

Rounded shoulders happen when your shoulder blades sit too forward relative to your rib cage. A lack of movement and poor posture trigger this condition, which commonly occurs when you spend too much time on electronic devices.

The symptoms of rounded shoulders are

  • muscle and bone aches,
  • breathing difficulties,
  • restricted performance, and
  • mental stress.

Untreated rounded shoulders can lead to chronic pain, limited movement, worsened muscle problems, and potential complications such as shoulder impingement or rotator cuff injuries.

Forward Head Posture

Another habit of smartphone users is tilting their heads forward. When prolonged, this position stresses the neck muscles and joints, creating a “forward head posture” (FHP). The suboccipital muscles (located at the base of your skull) tighten while the prevertebral muscles (located in front of the spine in your neck and upper back) stretch out, adding more pressure to your spine.

The symptoms of FHP may include neck pain, jaw pain, headache, breathing difficulties, and muscle disorders. Studies also suggest it might affect your ability to maintain balance when standing still.

Hunched Back (Kyphosis)

kid postural problems caused by excessive mobile device use

Picture your spine as a stack of cylinders. A healthy spine has a straight and perfectly aligned stack. However, with kyphosis, the cylinders change shape, looking more like wedges and tilting the stack forward. Consequently, your upper back rounds more than it should, causing a hunched back posture.

The symptoms of kyphosis vary depending on its severity. For mild cases, you usually don’t see any signs except for a curve in your upper back. However, people with severe kyphosis may experience the following:

  • Stiff and painful back and shoulder blades
  • Tight thigh muscles
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty controlling bladder or bowel movements
  • Numb legs
  • Balance issues

Kyphosis has various causes, but it’s also one of the postural problems caused by excessive mobile device use. You may tend to hunch over your phone for long periods, straining and stiffening your upper back muscles.

Wrist and Thumb Pain

wrist pain due to postural problems caused by excessive mobile device use

Phones have evolved into convenient, portable mini-computers we hold all day. However, the human hand has yet to catch up so that we can use these devices without wrist and thumb pain.

Wrist and thumb pain, also known as De Quervain's tenosynovitis or tendinosis, is the swelling of the thumb tendons’ protective layer. It causes friction and leads to pain at the base of the thumb, which may also radiate into the forearm. 

It’s a relatively common disorder among adults 30 to 50 years of age, but studies also found prevalence among young adults with problematic smartphone use. Wrist and thumb pain caused by excessive texting and scrolling may result in the following symptoms:

  • Worsening pain when using your hand, especially when pinching or gripping objects
  • Wrist or thumb numbness
  • A popping or snapping sensation when moving your thumb
  • Stiffness and swelling

Untreated wrist and thumb pain can potentially lead to tendon tears, tendon sheath rupture, or a rare permanent loss of thumb and wrist function.

Lower Back Pain

In 2020, lower back pain affected 619 million people worldwide and is projected to increase to 843 million by 2050. These statistics reflect lower back pain's universal impact across all age groups, prompting the need for effective solutions. 

woman experiencing back pain due to bad posture

Lower back pain, scientifically known as lumbar pain, describes the sharp pain and stiffness you experience from below the lower rib cage down to the buttocks. Various conditions, injuries, and diseases can cause this, including poor posture among students due to excessive mobile device use.

The symptoms of LBP are

  • muscle spasms,
  • back stiffness,
  • difficulty standing straight,
  • pain in the legs or other areas of the body,
  • sleep problems, and
  • mental stress.

When severe cases are left unaddressed, LBP can cause potential physical and social complications.

  • Chronic deformity or neurological deficits
  • Disability
  • Increased absenteeism 

Eye Strain and Headaches

Staring at your phone screen for extended periods can cause eye strain and headaches due to several factors. 

  • Blue light: excessive screen time and proximity, damaging the retinal cells and causing vision problems
  • Blinking frequency: blinking less, causing dry and irritated eyes 
  • Low-contrast devices: using phones with poor contrast between the background and text
  • Constant adjustment of focus: tired eyes due to constant refocusing
  • Poor posture: causes tension headaches by tightening the muscles on your upper back, neck, and shoulders.

If you notice signs of watery or dry eyes, blurred vision, a sore back, shoulders, and neck, fatigue, itching, or burning sensations in your eyes, increased light sensitivity, and difficulty concentrating, these could indicate digital eye strain.

Tips to Prevent and Treat Posture Problems

The widespread impact of postural problems emphasizes the need for effective treatment and prevention. Seek these treatment options when experiencing pain after using mobile devices. Consult a healthcare professional for the best solution to your specific needs.

chiropractic massage on neck for text neck
  • Chiropractic Care: A complementary treatment that involves tailored, drug-free, and surgery-free spinal examination and adjustments, offering a natural and holistic approach to addressing postural problems.
  • Acupuncture: A complementary therapy using needles to ease muscle spasms, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation related to postural issues.
  • Posture Awareness Techniques: Keep your head aligned with your shoulders. Instead of placing your phone on your stomach, lift it at eye level as much as possible. 
  • Regular Exercise: Make time to stretch and adjust your posture with simple neck stretches, shoulder rolls, lower rib expansions, and chin tucks.
  • Ergonomic Setups: Ensure your workspace or wherever you use your phone is designed to help you sit or stand properly. Use pillows or supportive chairs to keep a comfortable position.
  • Usage Monitoring: Track your screen time to determine when to take breaks. Interactive apps and wearable devices can remind you to rest and maintain good posture while using your mobile phone.
  • Hand Care and Training: Adopt ergonomic phone holding, do hand stretches, apply a hot or cold compress, massage your hands, and switch to voice-to-text features.
  • Ergonomic Accessories: Ask your healthcare provider to recommend devices for effective postural support, like splints or braces.
  • The 20-20-20 rule: Take regular 20-second breaks every 20 minutes, and shift your eyes to something 20 feet away.
  • Digital Adjustments: Optimize screen brightness and set up blue light filters to minimize exposure and reduce the likelihood of eye strain.

Personalized Spinal Treatments for Your Posture Concerns

It’s hard to imagine life without mobile phones today. They offer many benefits but can also pose risks when used incorrectly and excessively. Therefore, it’s essential to take proactive steps to address and prevent postural problems caused by excessive mobile device use. 

If a postural issue interrupts your daily routine, seek prompt treatment to prevent escalation.

Talk to our team of chiropractic, acupuncture, and physical therapy experts at Hogan Spine & Rehabilitation Center to address your concerns and get a tailored solution for posture management. 

Book an appointment with us today; together, we’ll nurture your well-being.

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