'Text Neck' Could Cause Chronic Spinal Problems For Kids And Adults

Monday, April 27th 2015, 6:15 pm
By: News On 6

Ready for the latest concern popping up on computer screens? It's called “text neck,” and it could carry some serious consequences for you and especially, your kids.

You see it in parks, at ballgames, schools and shopping malls: essentially anywhere there are people, there are cell phones. And many teenagers more or less live on them.

We've all heard about social concerns from kids spending too much time online, but now it turns out too much texting can literally be a pain in the neck.

"Your body likes a normal curve – with the head balanced on top of the spine," said Dr. Jim Rodgers.

Rodgers is a neurosurgeon at the Tulsa Spine Hospital. He says the average human head weighs around nine pounds, but bending your head forward changes your body's dynamics.

"Bio engineers have determined that the head weighs 20 pounds when you're forward flexed 15 degrees and weighs 40 pounds when you bend 30 degrees forward," he said.

At 45 degrees, a prime texting position, your head is putting almost 50 pounds of pressure on your spine.

A chiropractor in Florida first came up with the term "text neck" to describe the problem, and now has a whole institute devoted to what he calls a "global epidemic" affecting millions.

Mark Bearden of Sky Fitness and Wellbeing isn't quite so dramatic, but says he frequently sees the effects of "text neck" in the young athletes he trains.

"I started noticing their ability keep their spine neutral and their ability to extend their hips - they were limited, and they were all going in this 'c' pattern," he said.

Remember, these are athletes he's talking about. Kids who are motivated and physically active.

Kids like 13-year-old Tara Hall, who's a competitive softball player. She's a 7th grader but played on the 8th grade Jenks basketball team.

"Every year we hold a banquet, and I got offensive player of the year," said athlete Tara Hall.

"She's a very very hard worker, and yet, when it comes to technology, there's a problem. You come home, there's TV - 400 channels, Netflix, computers and tablets," her parents said.

Tara admits she feels the affects on her body.

"Sometimes my lower back is not flexible or aches sometimes," she said.

Diagnostic testing in January placed the blame for those back problems right here, on a cell phone.

Terry Hood, anchor and reporter: "Were you surprised?"
Teen athlete Tara Hall: "Yeah, cause I never thought it would happen to me - cause I play outside a lot, and I'm athletic."

Bearden says for athletes like Tara, the problems associated with "text neck" can have a direct correlation to performance.

"They don't run as fast; they don't jump as high. They're more prone to injury," he said.

But it's not just an issue for athletes, or kids for that matter. Adults are seeing the symptoms, too.

"Generally it affects when they sit in a car; it affects the way they're reading a book; it affects them at their job because it causes chronic neck pain," Bearden said.

Dr. Rodgers says it can even affect lung capacity and may ultimately require surgery. And when you start at a younger age, you're setting yourself up for some future problems.

Dr. Rodgers says simple isometric exercises to stretch your neck can help your body regain its natural balance. It's also important to be aware of your position when your texting or playing games. Try to keep your head up.

Just a little effort and awareness he says, can make a lifelong difference.

"I see patients all the time who come in and say, 'I wish I knew this was going to happen to my spine. I would have taken better care of myself,'" said Dr. Jim Rodgers, neurosurgeon. "Well, now it's a chance for young people to hear about this and maybe take some proactive steps that will lessen their problems in the future."

Mark Bearden says just after a few months of training, he sees a big difference in Tara.

Watch the web extra videos to see three basic exercises to strengthen your core and improve your posture.

Learn More About Text Neck