Forward Head Posture “FHP”: The New Workplace Injury

Source: mavoimage - 123RF

According to Common Sense Media, “teens spend an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their phones a day.” It is common knowledge that teens are constantly on their phones, but did you know most adults spend around 4 hours a day on theirs?

Mobile device usage, and the resulting forward head posture it elicits, is so common now that in Japan a phrase has been coined to describe the practice: “aruki-sumaho,” which literally means “walking-smartphone.”

Forward head posture, or “FHP,” is quickly becoming a common injury because handheld tech gadgets are used globally today, by people of all ages. Mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, cause a looking down posture, which often results in strain on the vertebrae of the spine and neck.

Due to widespread mobile tech usage, more and more young adults are entering the workforce with pre-existing conditions, including pain and discomfort while using a computer.

Handheld mobile technology, although convenient, encourages poor ergonomics. The tendency to slouch is a well-known effect of desktop computer work; however, looking down at your lap causes much more harmful effects to the spine than slouching.

A forward head posture or “poking chin” involves increased extension of upper and lower cervical vertebrae and the upper thoracic regions.

In addition to that over flexion of the spine, for every inch that the head is forward, and not directly over the shoulders, 10 pounds of weight is added to the neck and spine. In this position, the muscles of the cervical spine have to do much more work to hold the head up.

A recent study by Knoll Workplace Research found that device usage “…increases the chance for re-injury on the job and justifies the need for a variety of work furnishings to accommodate employees with incipient or pre-existing injuries.”

Companies like Google have already created open workspaces with a variety of seating to better accommodate these needs, but other companies will need to be creative to think of ways to encourage better ergonomics with today’s mobile technology.

Companies need to start thinking about how to provide ergonomic workstations for employees and consider how to prevent new or re-injuries. This will not only help employees be more productive, but also avoid workers’ compensation claims–a win-win situation.