Tech-Neck in children and young adults

‘It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity’

Albert Einstein

Tech neck or straight neck is a term to describe the repeated stress to the body (especially the neck) caused by children spending increasing large amounts of time daily hunched over their handheld electronic devices such as a smart phones, tablets, video games and laptops for hours every day with their heads bent forward.

Tablets, meant to make learning easier and more convenient in and out of school, but they may be causing changes in children’s posture at the time when their bodies are still developing. Tech Neck is impacting children from a young age and establishing bad postural habits early.

This habitual dropping your chin to your chest causes changes to the spinal curve of the neck resulting in a straight or a reverse of this curve stressing the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles. Eventually, in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, it could lead to serious consequences

Posture changes that typically evidence themselves in adults 30+ years old are now exhibiting themselves in children. Teenagers and children as young as seven are developing curved spines (hunchbacks) thanks to using handheld electronic devices. Tech neck may lead to the early onset of arthritis in the joints of the neck caused by the constant overstretching of the ligaments which, after a certain point, will no longer support the joints in the spine properly, thus changing the biomechanics of the spine.

Decreased lung capacity is attributed to the rounded shoulders that accompany forward head posture. When the shoulders round forward and the upper and mid back hunch over, the ribs are unable to expand properly, thus limiting the functionality and efficiency of the lungs.

If left untreated, prolonged head forward posture may eventually lead to pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, as well as headaches, numbness and tingling of the arms , decreased muscle strength, jaw joint dysfunction, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, spinal dysfunction and degeneration. It could even lead to depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems like constipation and decreased immune system due to the altered pumping of lymph.

Osteopaths are well equipped to help not only relieve symptoms associated with tech neck, but can also rehabilitate the natural curvature of the spine utilizing Osteopathic treatment. Osteopathic treatment can help maintain or restore proper biomechanics to the neck and upper back to ensure that the joints remain mobile. Soft tissue mobilization will reduce muscle tension and pain in the neck and upper back and guidance on correct posture and appropriate exercise will help.

Arming yourself with awareness and a physical routine will help your child to protect themselves from digital wear and tear whilst growing up in a rapidly changing digital world. Teaching children the correct way to use technology is paramount to heading off a generation of overuse injuries in our young. Osteopathy may help ensure your children grow up aware from a young age how to use technology safely for their physical, emotional and mental health.

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