The Effects of Technology on the Back, Neck and Spine


You’re probably reading this on your desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone or I-something or another.

You’ve got some slight pain in your neck. You’re probably hunched over, your chin is tucked close to your chest, and your fingers are cramped from holding your device for so long.

That pain you’re feeling? It’s because you’re constantly plugged in to the technology, and you’re holding your body in a way that causes strain and discomfort.

And you’re not alone.

“Many people today feel that pain through their shoulders and across their spine,” said Ken Morris, PT, DPT, and Clinical Director of the Tidewater Physical Therapy Hidenwood location in Newport News.

About four years ago, right when tablets and smart phones surged in popularity, Morris reports seeing an increase in patients with strained necks, aching shoulders and sore thumbs. His theory?

We aren’t properly adjusting our devices to fit with our bodies.

“You’re adapting yourself to an electronic,” says Morris. “Your body is being put into an abnormal posture.”

The same thing can happen to anybody who “reads or sews for too long while sitting in a downward position,” he said.

Some of the short-term impacts of electronics overuse include stiffness, muscular pain and general aches, Morris said.

Overtime, however, if someone is constantly straining their muscles on the Wii or craning their neck to hold their phone against their ear, it could lead to chronic muscle, myofascial and spinal issues.

“It’s really tough for people to break the habit of being on their phone that much,” Morris said.

And people are on their phone a lot. According to a recent post by Nielsen, an American global information and measurement company, the average time spent on a mobile device in December 2013 in the U.S. was 34 hours and 21 minutes.

Luckily, it’s easy to adjust your routine to live a healthier life while still using your device.

“Most people are able to adjust the way they sit,” said Morris.

It starts by helping patients strengthening the muscles they use most when they are on their devices — neck, upper back, arm, wrist and hand.

He also recommends that patients set timers for every thirty minutes while at work as a reminder to get up and stretch out their muscles.

When using a mobile device, the best tip Morris has is to bring it to eye level, keeping your neck in an upright position.

Tips on how to prevent pain from electronic overuse:

–Adjust the height of your device. Bring it up to your face.

–Limit the use of your device.

–Get up from your desk every thirty minutes and stretch.

—Look at how you sit in the mirror or take a picture of yourself sitting and then adjust so you are sitting in a natural position.

–Download the “Text Neck Indicator” app, which lets you know when your device is at the appropriate viewing height.–a-mobile-app.html


Ken Morris, PT, DPT received his Bachelor of Science degree from James Madison University and earned his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Widener University. In addition to general orthopedics, Ken has a special interest in treating shoulder and lumbar/ SI dysfunctions and is also certified in Dry Needling.  Ken is also Direct Access Certified through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing him to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription.    As part of your healthcare team, Ken will make an assessment of your condition and create a plan to start you on the road to wellness.  He will communicate with your physician of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for your continued treatment.  Ken and his team at our Hidenwood clinic will also work with your insurance carrier to make sure services are covered by your plan.