PETALING JAYA - Simple adjustments to body posture will help prevent neck pain and soreness caused by prolonged mobile phone or tablet usage, also known as "text neck".
According to rehabilitation science researcher Nizar Abdul Majeed Kutty, electronic devices should be held at eye level in order to prevent the head from bending forward and straining the neck muscles and joints.
The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman senior lecturer in physiotherapy said people should sit up straight with their head positioned such that the ears are over the shoulders and the feet planted firmly on the floor, while using electronic devices.
"Good posture is not only good for the health of your spine, it is also good for the overall health and mood," he said.
He said there are apps that can help alert users when they have stared at a device for too long.
This is so that users are reminded to take a break from the screen and avoid prolonged periods of straining their neck and eyes.
Chiropractor Eugene Yang said he has seen a growing number of young patients suffering from text neck.Photo: The Star/Asia News Network
"Children, especially from international schools, sometimes cannot help it because they are required to do a lot of work on the computer and their posture is often not right.
"They complain of neck pain and numbness in the hands," he said.
A report in The Star yesterday stated that as many as seven in 10 people suffer from neck problems due to smartphone usage.
A 2014 study published in the journal Surgical Technology International used a computer model to calculate the force to the cervical spine (the seven vertebrae in the neck region) as a result of people using mobile phones in poor posture.
The researchers found that when the head is in neutral position, the neck carries a load of about 5kg. At a 15-degree forward tilt, the load is 12kg and at a 45-degree tilt, it is 22kg.
The more the neck bends forward, the more the stress is on the cervical spine.
The extra force results in more load on the cervical discs, which can eventually degenerate and lead to chronic neck pain.
"Your neck is like a pin and your head is a ball, so if the neck is flexed forward, it's like trying to balance a bowling ball on a pin," added Yang.
"Age is not a barrier when it comes to using multiple gadgets as I had one patient in his early 50s who was brought in by his wife because of neck problems.
"Every day, he would sit on the floor and play games on two iPads and an iPhone! These problems are all self-inflicted.
"Ideally, your neck should be in a neutral position (ie chin tuck) when using these devices with your elbows resting on a chair.
"No more than 20 minutes should be spent on a device. Get up and walk every 30 to 45 minutes.
"The key is to regulate and do things in moderation," Yang said.