Technology’s Posture Problem
There is growing concern in the healthcare community with the overuse of hand-held technology by children, teens and adults. Most parents would agree that it can’t be good for their child to be bent over a cellphone or tablet computer for an extended period of time. While many try limiting their use, in most cases it seems impossible to enforce. New studies have confirmed that it is not healthy for anyone, not only children, to be in a slumped posture over a cellphone for an extended period of time.
Prior to the tech boom, posture awareness and outside activity that promoted good health and physical fitness was common. As technology has improved, physical activity has declined, especially in our younger population. This has given rise to an alarming trend of poor postural habits and obesity. Yet, with the advancements in technology, it is getting harder to avoid using these devices.
Current research estimates that people with smartphones typically spend between two and four hours a day with their heads in a tilted position. That totals between 700 and 1,400 hours a year with additional stress on the spine. Teens could be worse, spending up to 5,000 hours or more a year hunched over. Even children as young as five are starting to use these devices on a regular basis. The problem with early cellphone and tablet use by children is that their spines are still growing and not fully developed.
We’re not sure what to expect or if this could change normal anatomy and long-term outcomes. According to recently published studies, spinal surgeons are already beginning to see a wave of degenerative back and neck problems caused by poor posture from using smartphones, leading some to speculate that today’s eight-year-old might need surgery at age 28.
This postural stress condition is so pronounced that the medical community has given it the name “text neck”. However, a better term would be “tech neck” because texting is only one of the many problems with portable technology, which includes smartphones, gaming systems, e-readers and tablets.
Tech neck is an overuse syndrome or a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding the head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. A normal, healthy neck typically curves backward (lordosis), allowing the gravitational force to fall on the strong facet joints in the spine. As the head moves forward and the curvature of the neck reverses, the weight shifts onto the discs and vertebrae creating excessive amounts of tension in the deep muscles of the neck and across the shoulders and causing both acute and chronic neck pain. Chronic headaches have also been linked to this condition. A reverse in the curve is a normal part of aging, however, practitioners today are seeing the curve beginning to reverse at an earlier age. This accelerates wear and tear that may lead to early degenerative changes.
Most parents would agree that it’s not a simple task to limit the use of handheld technology for their children, especially when they can’t stay off their own devices. Cellphones are additive and have become a part of everyday life for most people. We are losing the battle of limiting the use of technology on a day to day basis and it’s not going to get any easier. Technology will just keep getting better and more addictive.
So, what can we do about it?
The first step is recognizing that there is a problem and that, if it continues, can cause irreversible damage leading to chronic pain and limitations later in life. We need to get serious about limiting the negative physical effects of this overuse syndrome.
The next step is don’t give up attempting to limit the use of handheld technology with yourself and family members. Getting committed to reducing the physical stress on the body is crucial.
Finally, be proactive. Don’t wait for the symptoms to start before seeking corrective care. By then, the damage may already have been done, especially with children as it will take a longer time for them to feel any symptoms.
Dr. Robert Sellari, a chiropractic physician with over 30 years of experience in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, opened Sellari Chiropractic Center in 1989. Using a team approach to provide the best possible care to achieve resolution or control conditions has led to over 7,000 satisified patients.
Location: 1594 Route 130, North Brunswick. For information, please call 732-479-8446 or visit SellariChiropractic.com.