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Mobile Phones are changing our Skeleton and Turning Us into Hunchbacks

Children as young as six are developing hunched backs and text neck syndrome from using their mobile phones. And experts warn they are at risk of degenerative spinal disease, chronic headaches, osteoarthritis and reduced mobility as a result.

A survey by the Chiropractors’ Association of NSW shows Chiropractors are seeing up to 20 patients a week suffering chronic neck pain, headaches, poor posture and repetitive strain injuries in the wrist and hands from texting.

There has been a 47 per cent increase in neck problems in the last three years and President of the CAANSW, Dr John de Voy says nearly half the patients treated were teenagers.

Research shows people are being drawn to their phones over 200 times a day to email, tweet, check Facebook and post on Instagram, he says.

“I’ve treated a six year old boy and an 11 year old who had chronic shoulder and neck pain, he said felt like a headache in his neck,” Dr de Voy said.

“I’ve been a chiropractor for 35 years and I’ve never seen as many neck problems as I am now,” he said.

Physiotherapy Association Australia spokesman David Hall says text neck is also a growing problem for physiotherapists.

“It’s an epidemic,” he says. “We are definitely seeing an increase in young adults coming to physiotherapists if they have done lots of study and have an office job and lots of mobile phone use and poor posture,” he says.

“It’s an early version of what can develop into a hunchback,” he says.

The proportion of patients seeing a physiotherapist for help with text neck has grown from one in four to over one in three, he says.

The neck and back problems are a decade in the making and caused by poor posture, he says.

People who wait too long to get help run the risk of having their body sculpted into and rounded, hunchback position, he says.

Regular stretching and strengthening is required and every half-hour it is necessary to get up from a sitting position and walk and vary your posture, he says.

Paula Cunningham, says her 13 year old daughter Bridget is seeing a chiropractor every fortnight to treat text neck.

“She’s using her phone and the computer five hours a day for schoolwork and I can’t limit it because it’s school work,” she says.

“We got her into treatment because my husband and I noticed she had a growth spurt and was hunched over like a little old lady and I was concerned,” Ms Cunningham said.

Text neck occurs when people bend forwards to look at their phone.

Research has found the head which normally weighs around 4-5 kilograms can weigh as much as 26 kgs when flexed forward to 60 degrees.

Even a tilt of only 15 degrees doubles the weight of the head to more than nine kilograms.

The design of the mobile phones and tablets and the way they are used can also cause hand strain.

Physiotherapist David Hall provides the following advice about the healthy use of mobile phones

  1. Choose a phone that is the shape and size that feels comfortable for your hands and is a good match for the size of your hands — protective covers can both help and potentially sabotage this so select them appropriately too.
  1. Vary your position when looking at your device — move between reclined, sitting and standing.
  1. Place your device on a bench / tray / support as much as possible to reduce load on the arms.
  1. Text two handed — this allows the wrists and fingers to be held in a more neutral position.

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