A 21st century pain in the neck…

You see them everywhere now – people and their techno offspring – cellphones, iPads and earpieces. It’s an addiction and like all other addictions brings physical and social conditions. One stunning example we once saw was in the peaceful surrounds of Auckland’s Cornwall Park.

There a man held his young son’s hand but ignored him as he walked, chatting on his cellphone, unaware of his child who looked up at him repeatedly in the sunshine of Sunday in the park.

That was a decade ago and now the problem has worsened. Devices alienate people from each other and although we communicate more easily, we seem to understand less. Doctors predict there will be a whole generation of users who will suffer what’s now known as ‘tech-neck.’

‘Did you know that cell phone use can double or triple the weight of your head and can strain your neck? If you are reading this article on a cell phone or tablet, you are probably doing it right now: Tilting your head,’ American neurosurgeon Dr Joshua M. Ammerman, an American neurologist says.

‘The use of these devices influences our posture and body mechanics in unhealthy ways that contribute to neck, upper back, shoulder, and arm pain. Furthermore, poor posture while sitting, standing, walking, or in a static position can lead to more than upper body pain and stiffness—poor posture affects other parts of the spine, such as the middle and low back.’  The average weight of an adult head is between 10 and 12 pounds. So how much does it weigh when tilted forward?

To find out, Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, created a computer model of the cervical spine. In an article published in Surgical Technology International, he reported that this model showed that the strain on your neck rises as the forward angle of your head increases.

  • At 15 degrees of forward tilt may equate to a head weighing 27 pounds.
  • At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40 pound head.
  • The greater the angle, the greater the strain: 45 degrees forward equals 49 pounds of strain, and 60 degrees forward equals 60 pounds.

Now consider the fact that the average person is holding his or her head forward to look at a phone or read a tablet for 2 to 4 hours a day, according to Dr. Hansraj. Teenagers spend even more time each day looking down at their devices, he added. Tech-neck though need not be a pain in the neck so check  out this link if you’re worried about yourself, or your kids.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.