Smartphones may be convenient, but they could be having serious consequences for kids. That's according to doctors in places like the United Kingdom and Australia, who told reporters recently that they've seen an increase in the number of young patients experiencing "text neck." Text neck, caused by having bad posture while using cell phones, can stress people's spines and lead to back pain, the Central Coast Express Advocate reported Thursday.
“The number of people with text neck [coming in] to my practice alone has more than doubled over the past year, and 50 percent of them are now school-age teenagers," said Australian doctor James Carter. "Each week I’m seeing on average five teenage patients with problems associated with text neck. A few years ago there would have been only one or two."
Digitally savvy kids were likely the most affected because they use smartphones the most -- 78 percent of young adults told venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which conducted an Internet trends study, this year that they spent at least two hours a day on mobile devices. When they're doing that and hunching over their keyboards, they're stretching their spines.
The average head weighs about 10 pounds when someone's sitting up straight, but the pressure grows every time he or she bends over. For example, a human whose head is tilted 60 degrees forward to look at a phone is holding up about 60 pounds, the Washington Post reported. Text neck can result in pinched nerves, metabolic issues, chronic headaches, curvature of the spine and arthritis.
Sammy Margo, a British physiotherapist, also told the Guardian last year the condition was becoming more common. "People carry out their lives by text," she said. "They get carried away and don’t realize they need a break.”
Luckily, avoiding text neck is relatively simple. Spine-Health.com recommended teens hold their phones at eye level, sit up straight, participate in core therapy classes or get neck massages.