Experts say smartphones come with some major risks, ergonomically speaking.

‘Text neck’ places stress on the spine and alters the neck’s natural curve, increasing the likelihood of associated soft tissue discomfort.

A new study highlights the risks to smartphone users, particularly young people, who are experiencing neck pain earlier than previous generations.

Researchers recorded video of 30 smartphone users aged between 18-25 years, who spend up to eight hours a day on their phones.

Using a Rapid Upper Limb Assessment tool (RULA) to measure ergonomic risk levels, they found that the average score for the participants was 6, compared to an acceptable score of between 1-2.

RULA has been used to assess the ergonomic impacts of desktop computers and laptops in the past.

Dr Rose Boucaut, a University of South Australia physiotherapist involved in the paper, says the awkward postures adopted by smartphone users can adversely affect the soft tissues.

“Smartphone users typically bend their neck slightly forward when reading and writing text messages. They also sometimes bend or twist their neck sideways and put their upper body and legs in awkward positions,” Dr Boucaut says.

“These postures put uneven pressure on the soft tissues around the spine, that can lead to discomfort.”

In a separate study published this month in the journal WORK, the same researchers surveyed 779 university students who use smartphones, with 32 per cent reporting neck pain, 26 per cent shoulder pain, 20 per cent upper back pain and 19 per cent wrist and hand pain.

Dr Boucaut says the findings should be communicated to health professionals who treat people with neck and back pain and may not always link their symptoms to smartphone use.

“It is also doubtful whether people experiencing back and neck pain (especially young people) are aware it could be as a result of excessive smartphone use,” Dr Boucaut says.

“Health practitioners need to educate their patients about safe postures and curtailing time spent using smartphones to help prevent these issues.”