Phone Neck and Premature Neck Ageing – Do You have Phone Face?
Have you ever heard of smartphone face or Mobile phone face? Along with digital eye strain (DES), our mobile phones are ageing us – particularly our necks.
“Smartphone Face” (Australia) or “cellphone face” (USA) are terms coined by Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Physicians. These terms point towards what is happening to our lower-face skin and neck muscles when we spend TOO MUCH TIME looking down at our mobile phones. It’s known as a ‘tech neck’ or ‘phone neck’ posture. Yet these facial expressions and postures are precisely the ones we adopt, day after day. That’s because our love affair with hand-held digital devices seems never-ending, despite what it does to our cervical spine. (Google Glass, a bit ahead of its time, might have at least kept our heads a bit more upright).
Our romance with our digital gadgets is harming our neck health AND our looks.
Our mobile phone use, in particular, is especially harmful to our cervical spine health. There is growing evidence that chronic usage of handheld phone devices is harming our:
- lower back
- neck (cervical spine)
- sitting and standing postures
- driving postures and driving safety
- nerves and tendons (fingers and arms)
- eye health (strain-related vision problems, UV damage and tear film changes)
- potentially our brain health
Smartphones are Ageing Our Necks Prematurely
Using smartphone devices is also impacting our once-beautiful jawlines and chin areas. Jacqui calls this syndrome “Phone Neck”. She notes her Injecting and Plastic Surgery team are seeing this syndrome more frequently – and in younger and younger patients. Some people just rarely ever look up from their phones.
Imagine what happens to your neck when your head is bent over your phone.
“We are essentially squishing down and folding our neck/jaw area skin, every time we adopt this ‘looking down at our phone’ posture,” notes Jacqui. “It crunches up your neck skin into what essentially becomes a ‘double chin’ and this can end up giving you a fatty phone neck appearance.”
And let’s face it – we use our “smartphone face” – a LOT!
Would you pull and squish the skin on your cheeks at least 20 times a day – then hope for the best in terms or skin resiliency and gravity? Of course not.
What is a smartphone face/cellphone face?
Smartphone face/cellphone face or “Phone Face” is a term increasingly used to describe the overall shortening of the neck muscles along with a diagonal, gravitational pull on the jowls and neck skin whenever a person spends hours-upon-hours looking down at their smartphone, reading device, laptop or tablet. Along with other recent terms including ‘tech neck’, ‘mobile phone/cell phone elbow’ (cubital tunnel syndrome) and digital eye strain (DES), phone face points to the undesirable outcomes of overuse of new technology. Smartphone/cellphone face terms also emphasise the growing concern about premature ageing of the lower face and neck skin due to frequent use of hand-held tech gadgets.
Unfortunately, we have become increasingly reliant upon our devices for instant updates, social chats, weather forecasts, business information and the daily news. There’s little we don’t use our phones for these days. And whilst these devices provide us with high levels of task convenience, like everything else these days – it comes at a cost.
It often leads to chronic neck pains, headache tension and even permanent neck injury. It may also lead to premature neck skin ageing and increased skin sagging due to physical compression and gravitational forces.
How does Smartphone Face/Cellphone Face impact your neck skin?
Are you addicted to your Kindle, your iPad, your laptop, tablet or smartphone? Your Apple Watch or FitBit? Or maybe ALL of the above?
You’ll no doubt find yourself bending your neck downwards for minutes to hours at a time. You’ll likely repeat these movements daily, year after year. Not only is this horrific for your cervical spine and overall body posture – it’s very ageing to your neck and facial skin.
How is looking down a lot detrimental to a youthful neck?
When you constantly look down, the neck muscles become strained. The skin on the neck is also pulled forward or forward and downwards.
Gravity, as we all know, is NEVER our friend as we age.
When you bend your neck to look down at your phone at a 45-degree angle, you’re essentially adding an extra 22 kilos of pressure – on average – to the force on your cervical spine (neck).
Your skin tissues are also likely to be feeling the extra pull; and these postures can lead to premature ageing of the neck skin.
The Phone-Chin Syndrome: Is your phone ageing your neck? Probably!
What’s also called a “Tech Neck” posture, the skin under the jawline (which is already sagging a bit by the time we hit 40) is also compressed when using handheld tech devices. This essentially results in a smartphone form of ‘double chin.’ Just think about it. Your neck is bent forward, your chin is also bent and crunched up, and your squishing the skin under the jawline – none of which is likely to help you keep a youthful, firm neck appearance.
Other Ageing, Skeletal and Postural Problems Caused by Using Cellphones, Smartphones, Mobile Phones, Tablets, Kindle & Ipads (And How To Prevent Them)
What is smartphone elbow/cellphone elbow?
Smartphone Elbow/Cellphone Elbow is common term for ‘cubital tunnel syndrome,’ which is a potentially disabling condition caused by overuse of hand-held tech devices such as smartphones/cellphones, tablets and laptops. The symptoms may include hand and finger weakness (difficulty opening jars), numbness, tingling in the hand and along the ulnar forearm, and other nerve-compression symptoms that may ultimately result in the loss of hand function over time. It can be very disabling to individuals and unfortunately appears on the rise due to increasing dependence on hand-held technology devises.
Smartphone elbow/Cellphone Elbow is now the “second most common nerve compression syndrome in the upper extremities after carpal tunnel syndrome” according to Cleveland Clinic Surgeons Darowish, Lawton and Evans.
Digital Eye Strain (DES) linked with digital screen over-use
There’s also growing evidence that our new obsession with using hand-held, backlit tech, is harming our vision.
The condition is known as “Digital Eye Strain” or DES, but the effects of too much DES could lead to a form of dry eye due to tear film changes. Research is building to suggest that our vision could be harmed by tech-use more than we currently realise.
For example, according to Scott Sikes, OD, in an article in Optometry Times:
“Digital eye strain sufferers routinely exhibit eye strain, redness, and dryness due to decreased blinking; blurry vision due to screen glare; headache from prolonged eye strain; and neck/shoulder/back pain that is caused by poor posture and sub-optimal screen position.” Source: http://optometrytimes.modernmedicine.com/optometrytimes/news/how-digital-devices-are-affecting-vision?page=full
“UVA (320 to 400 nm) is of particular concern to eyecare professionals.4 UVA is considered to be the most damaging of the three because it directly affects the crystalline lens of the human eye. Although UVA is very damaging, recent studies suggest that the blue end of the light spectrum may also contribute to retinal damage and thereby contribute to AMD. This is thought to be caused by high-energy visible (HEV) or blue/violet light that penetrates the macular pigment, causing more rapid retinal changes.4 These changes not only damage the retina structurally but can also decrease visual acuity. The type of damage depends on the wavelength, power level, and exposure time.4″ Excerpted from http://optometrytimes.modernmedicine.com/optometrytimes/news/how-digital-devices-are-affecting-vision?page=full
Tech-Face and Tech-Neck Ageing: How to stop your Tech Use from Prematurely Ageing your Neck and Face and Body
In one article, an estimated 28% of people spend 10 or more hours a day in front of digital devices.
There’s no question we are overly reliant on tech these days to get our news, and even reading a book or newspaper put a similar strain on the neck. But with books and papers, we could adjust the angle. We don’t always similarly adjust our smartphones, iPads and tablets.
Also, we didn’t need to constantly manipulate our fingers and wrists just to read a paper (no typing or swiping a screen).
Prevention better than Treatment for an Ageing Neck or “Phone Neck”
The best advice to not let TECH age or harm you – is to take a preventative approach. This is akin to being better off using a good sunblock to protect your skin from the ageing effects of the sun – versus having to spend a lot of time and money trying to reverse the sun-damage, wrinkles and pigmentation changes.
So give your tech devices a rest whenever possible.
- Try to get at least 2 full days a week where you can NOT look at a screen.
- Impossible? There was a time, less than 20 years ago, when few of us had mobile phones.
Avoid Screen Fatigue: if there’s an option on your Screen for vision protection, enable it.
Most phones have an option for vision protection – whether or not it is helpful may be up for debate, but if you have this, enable it. It tends to dull the screen a bit but if it protects your vision, it’s better than needing new glasses every year. It’s also recommended to stop every 20 minutes during tech use and to stare at something at least 20 feet (about 6-7 metres) away for 20 seconds.
Stand up straight whilst you’re looking at your smartphone.
- Instead of looking down, try holding it straight out in front of you.
- You can do this during a selfie, so why not when reading a screen?
- It may also feel so foreign that you STOP using it so much – which will decrease your exposure
- Don’t overstretch whilst you’re doing this – and remember to maintain an upright posture.
Use headphones on your smartphone/cellphone.
- Try to enable the automated voice reading of your text messages
- Wear headphones or earbuds (for privacy) at the office or use this feature when you’re alone or at home.
Get your news a different way
- If you’re on your PC for 8 to 10 hours a day, DON’T add to this tech-time by being on your smartphone for another 2 hours or more
- Investigate getting your news a different way – at least with most televisions, you’re further away from the light source than with a personal device – which may be mere centimetres away from your face and eyes
- Remember – don’t bend your neck and crunch your under-jaw skin.
There are numerous options (including potential injection treatments) to assist you in regaining smoother, firmer looking neck skin. But as always, prevention is better – and more affordable – than any potential cure.
If you feel your tech use has prematurely aged your neck or lower face, please contact us to see what our Dermal Clinicians, Cosmetic Injectors or Plastic Surgeons can do to help you regain a youthful, firmer looking jawline or neck contours.
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