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Smart Devices: A pain in the neck?
The Chiropractic Association (Singapore) [TCA(S)] confirms a recent study by Microsoft, Harvard
researchers and the US Department of Health that long usage of smart devices have a higher potential for
neck and shoulder pain.
Encouraged by the Complementary and Alternative Department of the Ministry of Health, Singapore,
TCA(S) embarked on a year long research survey in 2012. We investigated the long term effects of
smartphones, tablets and laptops on posture related on the head and neck with possible solutions.
132 patients from 14 member clinics, with complains of head, neck and shoulder pain participated in the
The majority of the participants were 20-50 years of age. About half were between 20-35 years,
indicating that a younger population may already be experiencing early signs and symptoms of
cervical diseases caused by poor biomechanics.
Almost all indicated that they compute from a desktop and another smart device. The average time spent
on the desktop and smart devices were equal. With smart devices, about 50% surveyed, spent 3-6 hours a
day on their smart devices while the rest, spent 7-12 hours a day. In addition, those using smart devices
for extended periods, indicated that they resorted to adopting poor postures to view their devices. These
poor posture included prolong neck flexion, telescoping their necks and/or propping pillows under their
Alarmingly, 76% mentioned that they were unaware of proper ergonomics and postural exercises to help
themselves. Only 4% had received information on proper posture through healthcare talks and other media.
Just half of the participants would attempt to adjust the height of their table and seat, however, most
complained that their office furniture were not appropriate for their body frame.
For existing neck pain sufferers, the TCA(S) survey had similar findings with randomized studies from
The British Medical Journal (2004) and The SPINE Journal (2011), that patients responded better when
cervical spinal alignment is accompanied with spinal rehabilitation exercises and ergonomic education
compared to manual treatment alone. Aside from ergonomic furniture, equal emphasis should be placed on
spinal exercises for correction and preventive measure.
The Chiropractic Association (Singapore) hopes to expand the research survey to include the general
population. In the next phase, TCA(S) also to focus on the younger population who are heavily utilizing
smart devices on a daily basis because they are likely to be highest at risk.