In the article published in Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation, on Jan. 15, Harvard School of Public Health researchers revealed the problem comes from the way people position themselves when using the devices, especially when doing so for a long period of time.
Jack Dennerlein, lead writer of the Harvard study, said, “If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight.”
Researchers found that study participants’ heads and necks were in more flexed positions while using the tablets than those typical of desktop or notebook computer users. The article surmised, “Working for long periods of time with the head slumped forward and the neck flexed can result in neck pain.”
Brandon Forrester, a doctor of chiropractic at Free Chiropractic Center in Cleveland, said he has seen an increase in neck and shoulder discomfort due to the prolonged use of everything from cellphones to iPads due to this same “head slumped forward” position.
“More people are exhibiting stresslike symptoms and it’s not necessarily from stress,” he said. “It’s from cellphones, text messaging, playing games and looking at the Internet on those tablet computers. They get the same symptoms from stress when they’re looking down all the time. It puts the trapezius muscles, located in the upper back and neck region, and the longissimus muscle, along your back, under prolonged stress.”
Forrester, who is also an assistant coach at Bradley Central High School, said, “My fear is that basically a whole generation is going to grow up with a flurry of problems from the neck based on poor posture while using this technology. They are forever looking down and it’s going to affect them.”
Researchers found that placing the tablet at an angle on a table is the best posture for prolonged use. The Harvard study concluded that the “table-movie” position, which requires users resting the device at a sharp angle on a table, is best for the health of the neck and shoulder. As the usage of smartphones and tablets increases, however, physical ailments like eye strain, neck and shoulder soreness are expected to grow.
While Forrester admits chiropractic treatment is no cure-all for every type of health issue, the Bradley Central graduate and former collegiate wrestler said, this no-drug, no-surgery approach to restoring mobility in joints offers back and neck pain treatment that aims to fix the source of the pain rather than simply treat its symptoms.
In using his hands, primarily, to treat muscle, joint and nerve pain by adjusting the spine and joints as well as applying controlled but sudden force to a joint, Forrester said he can loosen up joints that move poorly or painfully due to tissue damage caused by either trauma or repetitive stress.
“You have to get the right nutrition, exercise and avoid injuries,” Forrester said. “But everyone should go get checked because chiropractic care is more than treating back pain and neck pain. It’s no different than going to your medical doctor for a checkup or your dentist for a checkup. Preventative care is very important. Take care of any problems early and you have fewer big problems as you get older. Everyone should make that part of their routine for wellness care.”
Forrester referred to the World Health Organization ranking the U.S. 37th in health care and 24th in life expectancy, although it stands alone as the richest country in the world.
“We have more doctors, more hospitals and better facilities, but we are sicker than 36 other countries? That doesn’t make good sense,” Forrester said. “Why are we near the bottom of that list when it comes to wellness? We’re putting our faith into pills that are not necessarily making us better. Roughly, we have 5 percent of the world’s population and we take 75 percent of the world’s drugs. If medicine is the answer, why are we not No. 1 in health and wellness?”
While concerns about overmedication in America continue, without enough alternative treatments being recommended, Forrester said he believes there is room for both kinds of treatment, which he sees as equally necessary.
“If I’ve been bitten by a rattlesnake, don’t take me to a chiropractor. Take me to a medical doctor,” Forrester said. “Medicine is necessary. We have a fantastic emergency medical system in this country. If you’re in an accident or have a sudden illness, you are better off in America than anywhere else in the world.
“But the things we do day-to-day that make our body work like it’s supposed to — our diet, nutrition and exercise, and making sure our spine is adjusted right — that is where we fail. You only get one spine. There is nothing you can do to replace it. It’s the most important structure in your body because it protects and surrounds your central nervous system. Your brain is contained inside your skull, which protects it. Then your spinal cord and all the spinal nerves exit through your spine. So everything in your body is dependent on good function of your brain, spinal cord and your spine.”
Forrester, whose first chiropractic experience came after a family automobile accident when he was 5, and again as a 19-year-old athlete, said, “What really got me interested in chiropractic was when I was wrestling at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City. I got hurt pretty bad. I had a neck issue that caused me to give up wrestling. The orthopedist told me I would have to have surgery, there was no way to avoid it and I was going to have permanent damage. I said ‘No, ‘I’m going to a chiropractor.’ It took a long time, but there is no sign of the injury now. That’s what people don’t understand about chiropractic. It takes time and effort. You have to do your part the same as I do, but it works.”
Chiropractors may also use electric and heat therapy, along with massage and manually adjusting the spinal column. According to Forrester, there are many lifestyle factors that affect health, including nutrition and exercise.
“The way most of us live our lives is that we do fairly physical things,” he said. “What I recommend, especially after you have had a problem, is to come in for a visit and get checked out.”
Forrester agreed with other experts who recommend that smartphone and tablet computer users vary their postures every 15 minutes, and use a case that doubles as a tablet stand to reduce the need to grip the device, and allow it to be propped up at an angle that keeps the user’s head in a neutral position, minimizing neck strain.
Forrester has two children, Olivia, 10 and Owen, 7, and is married to local radio personality Bridgett Baggett.
For further information, visit www.freechirocentre.com, or call 423-479-4220.