Text Neck

Smartphone Use Still Causing Millennial Health Worries, But a Group of Scientists Might Be Able to Help

Text NeckMove over, computer vision syndrome. There’s a new technology-induced ailment on the rise.

You might have heard of “text neck” before — the dreaded long-term damage you could be causing to your upper spine from too much texting or smartphone use. For the past two years, stories of text neck — or “iPosture” — have flooded the health pages of popular news outlets warning users to sit up straight if they’re spending time with their mobile devices or tablets. Now, experts are warning that lasting pain might just be the tip of the iceberg for text neck problems.

Wrinkles on the back of the neck or under the chin could form if the user is constantly in a state of poor posture while staring at his or her iPhone screen, MirrorUK reported. It’s become so prominent than cosmetic surgery companies have even begun offering procedures to rid the neck of these telling lines.

Text neck is real, and the problems caused by it are growing. That’s troubling news for doctors across the globe, especially Dr. Sarah Pace of Pace Family Chiropractic in Rochester, who told the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper that patients as young as 12 (but only as old as 22) have “worse head posture than my adults.” If left unchecked, extended improper posture can lead to a number of health issues including general pain in the neck and back areas, numbness, headaches and potentially even arthritis. These issues may require corrective spinal procedures in the future.

“You want to maintain your posture,” explains Dr. Ben Myers, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at Artificial Disk Institute. “There’s a natural curvature to your spine, and when you lose that curvature, it can cause premature degeneration of the cervical discs.”

Luckily, a group of researchers is putting together a registry of the different outcomes upper-spine surgeries can yield. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the registry will help patients keep track of which procedures are best for their conditions as well as which ones they’re likely to be able to afford. This news is especially helpful as spinal cord compression is the most common spinal issue affecting Americans over the age of 55 — and the Baby Boom generation is currently aging into its late 50s, 60s and beyond.

But if younger Americans are being exposed to issues that normally haven’t taken hold until folks reach their 50s, is it too late for preventative care? Experts say no. In fact, the key is simply to bring your device to eye level, thus lessening the pressure your neck is placing on your spine. Simple tips like this can help the youngest generation — comprised of “digital natives” — stave off upper spinal problems for decades.

The message is clear: Text neck can be prevented. All it takes is an awareness of how you’re sitting and what you’re actually doing with your neck as you stare down at a small screen. The trick? Treat your phone like a book and hold it at eye level. You’ll thank yourself later on when you’ve found you’ve delayed neck wrinkles for another 10 years or so.