Cervical Spine – Neck Pain in Teenagers a Rising Epidemic

Posted in Neck Pain Disorders Back Pain Disorders on Jan 21, 2016

Teenagers have been told to ‘stop slouching and sit up straight’ since the dawn of time. However, modern technology makes the problem more serious than ever before. A 2006 survey of teenagers (14-16 years old) revealed that adolescents spent 1½ hours daily on computers and mobile devices (10 hours, 24 minutes per week).

In less than 10 years, that number has tripled to nearly 4 hours daily (27 hours, 36 minutes per week)!1,2 It is not the devices themselves that seem to be the problem, but the position that they contort their neck. The problem is being dubbed ‘text neck’ and is the direct result of youth spending an ever-increasing number of hours on electronic devices.

As an Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractor, who specializes with neck, I am seeing the problem with increasing frequency and severity in younger-and-younger children. What happens is the normal curve of the neck, which should be ‘C’ shaped (aka lordotic) contorts into an ‘S’ or in severe cases a backward ‘C.’ In the past, that type of change only occurred if a person suffered a whiplash-type injury.

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With mobile phones, however, we are finding the repetitive movements are more than enough to cause damage, early-onset osteoarthritis, anterior head carriage (described below), and the neurological complications that come with it.

In a neutral spine, the ear should line up with the tip of the shoulder. Anterior head carriage occurs when the head juts too far forward. For every 2.5cm that the head juts forward, the effective pressure on the brainstem and spinal cord doubles!3 The complications of anterior head carriage are extremely well documented: headaches, migraines, tightening of the neck and shoulder muscles, neck pain, tingling in the arms and hands, breathing difficulties, facial neuralgia, jaw disorders, scoliosis, and arthritis.

4-7 These problems are bad enough when they happen in adulthood—and all these problems also occur in adults who spend too much time on computers and phone—but all this is starting to happen to kids, who aren’t old enough to vote or even drive! It is a massive problem that demands a solution.

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However, to take away or even limit all electronic devices is not the answer. It would be like saying that the best way to prevent dental cavities is to eliminate all sugar from society. Although such radical action may have many health benefits, it is neither practical nor likely.

Our society needs a real solution. This highlights the importance of Atlas Specific care, aka Upper Cervical care. Upper Cervical care is a specialized form of chiropractic that examines the relationship between the upper vertebrae in the neck and how they affect the posture and health of the entire body.

If these vertebrae slip or misalign through repetitive actions (such as using a mobile phone) they often cause anterior head carriage and all the symptoms associated with ‘text neck.’ Upper Cervical care has been practiced safely for decades for people of all ages, including children.

Just like seeing the dentist where you have a regular health checkup hoping that your child does not have any cavities, Upper cervical chiropractors advocate that people also have regular checkups to ensure that the health of their spines are not compromised … and ideally everything is okay.

But if not, we are able to correct these types of problems and hope that we are able to do so when they are still small. When it comes to text neck and the complications that may appear later in life as a direct result of it, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is truly the best approach.

If you would like more information or to schedule a free consultation (and hopefully your neck is not misaligned), please fill out the form below or give us a ring at the office: 07 3188 9329. We will be delighted to help you.

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  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2989952/How-technology-taking-lives-spend-time-phones-laptops-SLEEPING.html
  2. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/media-lit-10years/2015_Adults_media_use_and_attitudes_report.pdf
  3. Cailliet R. Neck and Arm Pain, Edition 2. FA Davis, 1981.
  4. Darnell MW. A proposed chronology of events for forward head posture. J Craniomandbular Practice, 1983;1(4):49-54.
  5. Gonzalez HE, Manns A. Forward head posture: its structural and functional influence on the stomatognathic system, a conceptual study. J Craniomandbular Practice, 1996;14(1):71-80.
  6. Haughie L, Filbert I, Roach K. Relationship of forward head postuire and cervical backward bending to neck pain. J Man Manipulative Therapy, 1995;3(3):91-97.
  7. Eriksen K. Upper cervical subluxation complex: a review of the chiropractic and medical literature. Baltimore, MD. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. 2004.
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