“Will an 8-year old need surgery at age 28?”
According to co-author of a report studying the number of disk hernias and alignment problems among the young, Dr. Todd Lanman, the probability is likely. Spine surgeons are noting a dramatic increase in young patients with neck and upper back pain, most likely resulting from poor posture imposed from prolonged smartphone use. Labelled as “text neck,” this modern-day ailment is giving children the bodies of older people.
“In an X-ray, the neck typically curves backward, and what we’re seeing is that the curve is being reversed as people look down at their phones for hours each day,” Dr. Lanman said in an article on Daily Mail. “The real concern is that we don’t know what this means down the road for kids today who use phones all day. By the time patients get to me, they’re already in bad pain and have disc issues.”
In another study, published in Surgical Technology International, researchers determined other physiological burdens “text neck” may cause. The authors found that people hold their necks at around 45 degrees when they look down at their phones. This worsens when a person sits. Researchers calculated that the head weighs around 10 to 12 pounds while in a neutral position looking forward. At a 15-degree flex, the head weighs around 27 pounds. The stress on the spine increases with each degree of flex. Thus, at an average 45-degree angle when browsing, the head can weigh 49 pounds. That’s like carrying a small bale of hay around by the neck for hours at a time!
Researchers of this study estimate that smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours a day hunched over, looking at their phones. That equals to 700-1,400 hours per year people are stressing their spines. This applies to the average adult though. Adolescents tend to spend more. Authors of the study say that it is conceivable that pubescent children spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position. (Related: Heavy Backpacks Can Injure A Child’s Spine (press release).)
Dr. Steven Shoshany, a chiropractic healthcare specialist, released a cautionary report on Spine-Health.com that children need to be more careful about their spine health, particularly with “text neck.” He suggested young adults see a physician immediately if they start to exhibit any of the following symptoms:
Thankfully, the condition is largely preventable. Spine experts suggest holding cell phones at eye level as much as possible. This holds true for all screens so laptops and tablets should be raised to eye level so you don’t have to bend. Dr. Lanman suggests using two hands and two thumbs to text to create an even more symmetrical and comfortable position for the spine.
However, Gwanseob Shin of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology Ergonomics Lab in South Korea noted, “’It is difficult to recommend a proper posture for smartphone users. If we raise the phone to eye level to avoid the look-down posture, it will add new concerns for the shoulder due to the elevated arm posture. A more practical recommendation would be frequent rest breaks or some physical exercise that can strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.”
There are also apps that sound alarms when their users use their phones for too long.
The key, doctors emphasized, is constant vigilance. Adults need to catch themselves when they start to slouch or if they’ve been using their phones for more than a few hours.
Read more ways to prevent “text neck” and back pain problems by reading BackPain.news.