Healthy Beginnings

Does staring down at your smartphones, tablets cause whiplash?

Constantly staring down at your smartphone can cause abnormal stress, usually at your cervical C5/C6 vertebra area of your neck.

It is amazing to look at people today. Most of them are on their cellphones, computers, gaming system or some other electronic system.

In fact, according to statistics from the first quarter of 2016 from global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen, the average adult American spends about 9.6 hours a day using these various devices. And those numbers are growing, according to published reports.

Most of us don’t think about what is happening to our bodies as we set slumped over these devices. We use them day after day, and the damage that they’re causing to us can be equal to “whiplash” in some cases.

You ask, “How can this be?” When we are fresh in the morning, most of us do pretty well, but as day goes on, we start the poor posture.

“When we slump while seated, which causes our shoulders to roll forward and the mid-back to round out, the head and neck are pushed forward,” wrote Michelle C. Bean, a Sparks-based chiropractor, in a 2010 Healthy Beginnings story about whiplash. “In an attempt to maintain balance we automatically extend the head back even further causing that abnormal S-shaped curve of the neck as seen in sudden whiplash. Only now, we maintain this posture hours on end and day after day.”

Bean continued: “Over time this will result in muscle lengthening adaptations and altered normal biomechanics. The body continues to compensate by restricting motion of injured muscles and joints. All these changes cause secondary myofascial pain that leads to referred pain typically in the neck, shoulders, and between the shoulder blades.”

All of this can lead to headaches, loss of neck ROM (range of motion), arm tingling or numbness, and irritability, among other symptoms.

Most people will think that these symptoms are caused by their own individual stress and tension, which could be true to some degree. However, these symptoms are really byproducts of all the hours, days, months and years of poor posture, which has caused the curve of your neck to be straightened out, causing adhesions around the joints and spine and starting the degenerative process due to the abnormal stress usually at your cervical C5/C6 vertebra area of your neck.

According to the Mayo Clinic, whiplash is defined as “a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash most often occurs during a rear-end auto accident, but the injury can also result from a sports accident, physical abuse or other trauma.”

Most symptoms from whiplash are: neck, upper back and shoulder pain and stiffness; loss of neck ROM with or without pain; headaches; tingling or numbness in the arms; fatigue; dizziness; blurred vision; ringing in the ears; concentration problems; memory problems; irritability; depression; and sleeping problems, to name a few.

The scary thing about these two scenarios is that the person who gets whiplash from an injury feels it within minutes to days and usually seeks out treatment because they realize there is a problem.

With the other scenario, the person usually doesn’t figure it out because it’s a slow, prolonged growing problem, so they live with their symptoms that continue to slowly get worse and continue to create more damage with time, and as such, they’re wondering why their health is slowly going downhill.

Both of these scenarios can cause symptoms and ongoing degenerative problems — which you don’t want. So if you are experiencing any of them now or have noticed any starting, you need to seek care from a chiropractor who helps restore cervical curves, strengthens the neck and helps you restore your health back to normal. Enjoy a healthy life with less or no symptoms now.

Dr. Tony C. Jensen is a Reno-based chiropracticor who is board certified in the state of Nevada. Visit to learn more.