Is social media wrecking your neck?

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A DECADE ago, the way backpacks were worn by younger people in the ACT was one of the most significant postural concerns for me, as a chiropractor.

TextinginclassThese days, the new postural concern is social media usage, which appears to be increasing every year.

Findings of a recent, three-year study of 1049 people in Hong Kong revealed that 70 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children and teens reported that their use of electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, had caused neck, shoulder, wrist or finger pain.

Researchers, concerned about what these findings mean for school-age children, warned that if leaning the head forward or rounding the shoulders becomes the norm it’ll be difficult to correct during adulthood.

As a chiropractor, my worry is the way accessing social media requires moving the head forward and the effect this has on the neck.

Murray Fisher.
Murray Fisher.
It has been estimated that young people spend two to four hours a day with their heads tilted forward reading and texting on smartphones and other devices to access social media.

The Hong Kong study also measured the weight of the head in a neutral position, and in increments as the head position moved forward.

A human head weighs 4.5kg to 5.5kg in the neutral position, but as the head bends forward, the weight on the neck increases dramatically, as we can see here:

 

  • In a neutral position the head weighs 4.5kg-5.5kg.
  • At 15 degrees, the weight of the head increases to 12.3kg.
  • At 30 degrees to 18.2kg.
  • At 45 degrees to 22.3kg.
  • At 60 degrees to 27.3kg – almost five times as heavy as in the neutral position!

 

Looking at these figures, heavy social media users complaining of neck and shoulder pain and headaches is predictable.

The time young people spend accessing social media equates to an extra 700-1400 hours a year of extra stress on the neck.

It’s extremely unlikely that this situation will improve so, as a chiropractor, this is of significant concern to me, as it should also be to all social media users and parents.

Murray Fisher is a Civic-based chiropractor and can be contacted at 6257 1138.

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