Scientists and doctors are warning that an entire generation may be ruining their spines, craning their necks to look at their cell phones and computers all day. An entire generation looks like its developing ‘text-neck’, which is when there is a curvature of the neck, brought on from repeated straining.
It came to the attention of doctors, who several years ago began to remark that they have been seeing an increased number of patients with neck and back pains and issues. Particularly, a rise in young people seeing the doctor for those issues. Usually young people don’t have neck and back issues.
‘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,’ said study coauthor Dr. Todd Lanman, a spinal neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
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‘The real concern is that we don’t know what this means down the road for kids today who use phones all day.’
Lanman and co-author Dr. Jason Cuellar, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, write that people often look down when using their smartphones, particularly when texting as compared to browsing online or watching videos.
Previous studies have also found that people hold their necks at around 45 degrees, and it becomes even worse as they sit, versus standing, the study team writes.
The impact on the spine increases at higher flexed postures, they add.
While in a neutral position looking forward, the head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds.
At a 15-degree flex, it feels like 27 pounds. The stress on the spine increases by degree, and at 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.
‘For today’s users, will an 8-year-old need surgery at age 28?’ Lanman said. ‘In kids who have spines that are still growing and not developed, we’re not sure what to expect or if this could change normal anatomies,’ he told Reuters Health.