Smartphone users who experience upper back pain or stiffness of the neck may want to consider this: their smartphone use may be ruining their posture and, consequently, their mood.

Because the body is contorted when one is using a smartphone, the pressure on the neck increases. Experts believe this pressure results in a condition similar to the dowager's hump. The upper back of a person becomes frozen into a forward curve.

For smartphone users, this stoop is called the "iHunch."

Steve August, a physiotherapist in New Zealand, coined the term iHunch. About 30 years ago, August started treating dowager's hump in grandmothers. Now, he observes the same stoop is evident in teenagers.

Professor Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School explained that the iHunch or the iPosture can also hurt smartphone users psychologically.

How the iHunch Affects Emotions and Self-Esteem

Cuddy pointed out that people often slouch whenever they feel sad, scared or powerless. Previous studies have revealed that individuals who are clinically depressed adopt a posture similar to the iHunch.

In a 2010 Brazilian study, experts learned that individuals who are clinically depressed were more likely to stand with their necks bent forward, arms drawn in toward the body and shoulders slouched inward.

Another study found that bad posture not only reflects our emotions — it can also influence them.

Earlier this year, a team led by Shwetha Nair assessed several individuals who were not clinically depressed. Some of the participants were assigned to slouch; some were assigned to sit upright.

All of them underwent a mock job interview, an experimental stress inducer. Compared with people who sat upright, the participants who slouched reported lower mood and self-esteem, as well as greater fear. These slouchers also gave more negative answers.

Nair and the team concluded that sitting upright can help build resilience to stress.

Meanwhile, in a preliminary research featured in the Harvard Business School Working Paper, Cuddy and her colleague Professor Maarten W. Bos also discovered that the stooped position can make a person less assertive and less likely to stand up for themselves.

What Should Slouchers Do about the iHunch?

Since people rely too much on their smartphones, correcting bad posture during use might not happen overnight. Cuddy, however, said there are many ways to fight the iHunch.

Smartphone users should keep their shoulders back and head up while looking at their mobile device. They can keep it at eye level to help them view the screen better. They should also try to stretch and massage the two muscle groups between their shoulder blades and on the side of their neck.

One's posture is vital to overall well-being, and it can lead to better mood and higher self-esteem.

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