Research Article: Association between mobile phone use and neck pain in university students: A cross-sectional study using numeric rating scale for evaluation of neck pain

Date Published: May 20, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Fadi Al-Hadidi, Isam Bsisu, Saif Aldeen AlRyalat, Belal Al-Zu’bi, Rasha Bsisu, Mohammad Hamdan, Tareq Kanaan, Mohamad Yasin, Omar Samarah, Lars-Peter Kamolz.


Mobile phones are reliable devices for communication and entertainment. However, their utilization for prolonged periods in flexed neck position is linked to neck and shoulders pain. The main purpose of this study is to investigate the association between neck pain and the duration of device use, taking into consideration gender, age, and the most frequent position in which students use their devices.

Based on a self-administered online questionnaire, we filled 500 questionnaires between February 15th, 2017 and March 18th, 2017. The study sample included healthy students from health care faculties regardless of their age, gender, or handedness.

Analysis of the predictors for pain severity showed that age (p = 0.04) and duration of use (p = 0.001) were significantly associated with the severity of neck pain, while only the duration of use was significantly associated with pain duration (p = 0.036). Subjects were divided into two groups according to the pain score, 75.8% had pain severity equal or less than 4/10 and 24.2% had pain severity more than 4/10. Of those with pain severity >4, 5.8% of students sought medical help at the emergency department and 12.4% visited clinics, compared to only 0.3% seeking medical advice at an emergency department and 4.2% visiting clinics in the group with pain severity of ≤4 (p<0.001). Regarding the use of analgesia in the two groups, 44.6% of subjects with pain severity of >4 used analgesia, compared to only 12.1% in subjects with pain severity of ≤4 (p< 0.001). This study demonstrates a significant positive correlation between the duration of mobile phone use and the duration and severity of neck pain. Furthermore, the increased severity of neck pain places a huge burden on the healthcare system.

Partial Text

Mobile phones are considered to be the most popular portable electronic device nowadays. Recent estimates showed that at least 77% of the world’s population has their own mobile phone [1]. The main reason mobile phone use is emerging and becoming more and more popular worldwide is that it is a reliable device for communication and entertainment [2].

Unsurprisingly, this study revealed that all of the student sample own smartphones. Based on their age group, these students adopt a static and flexed spinal posture while texting on mobile phones [12], which is the most common posture that contributes to neck pain [13]. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to use the NRS-11 pain severity score of 4 as a threshold value for increasing alertness to neck pain. In addition, it is the first study to investigate the relationship between mobile phone use and neck pain among Jordanian young adults.

This study has several limitations; the use of other devices (e.g. laptops) or even the posture of studying from books was not considered. Moreover, the questionnaires were filled by 500 university students from a total of 5713 students, with a response rate of 8.75%, which is half the response rate expected by online questionnaires on social media without sending messages to the study population [25, 26]. In addition, the questionnaire included only university students who use social media, and was limited to their age group, limiting the ability of this study to assess the pain characteristics among different age groups.

In conclusion, smartphones are increasingly becoming essential in all aspects of our lives, and more attention should be given towards increasing awareness about the importance of having healthy sitting positions and using mobile phones for restricted durations, in order to control the increasing prevalence of neck and shoulder pain in our societies.




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