The Bottom Line: Is Your Smart Phone a Pain in the Neck?
Posted on July 12, 2022 | in Ergonomics
VelocityEHS ergonomist Blake McGowan explains the latest research on ergonomics and smart phone use.
Hi, I’m Blake McGowan, and I’m a certified professional ergonomist with Humantech (now VelocityEHS Ergonomics). Since the mid-2000s, smartphones have been a part of our daily lives. These devices are amazing, and they allow us to be connected at any time. Unfortunately, prolonged use of these devices results in pain to our neck, our shoulders, as well as the base of our thumbs.
Well, in 2015, Jack Dennerline from Northeastern University did a really nice study summarizing all the musculoskeletal disorder issues associated with smartphone use. There are basically two findings. First, when viewing the screen of these devices, we adopt neck-bending postures for prolonged periods of time. These postures lead to pain in the neck. As a result, we try to minimize that pain and adopt other postures like raised shoulders to view the screen. Unfortunately, these postures lead to pain in the shoulders.
Secondly, when entering text into these devices, we predominantly use our thumbs. When we text, we actually result in a lot of non-neutral postures that are very close to end range of motion. And when we adopt these types of postures, our motor performance of texting actually decreases. And depending upon the size of our devices, we have different types of impact. The larger the device, the more range of motion and more motor performance decreases.
So, what does this mean? What’s the bottom line? When we use a smartphone for prolonged periods of time, we get pain in the neck, the shoulder, as well as the base of our thumb. So, one of the things that we can do is minimize the use or the time that we use these smart devices and limit that to about five minutes at one time. Other things we can do is use the voice command controls on our smartphones. And lastly, if we’re going to be using the device to enter data for a long period of time, we may want to consider using a desktop or a laptop instead.