Smartphone users looking down at their device spend an average of 700 to 1400 hours each year, with their posture resulting in 27 kg of force on their neck, according to new research from the USA.

text-neckThe research, by New York Spine Surgeon Dr Kenneth Hansraj, scientifically proves the health impact of bending your head down to peer at a mobile device – an increasingly common health problem becoming known as 'text neck'.

"There are more mobile phones than people in Australia, but the way we use them needs to change," the Victorian President of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, Dr Anthony Coxon said.

"Imagine balancing a tenpin bowling ball on the top of a cricket stump and you get some idea of the forces required to maintain good posture.

"Technology has become a staple of life for people of all ages in our community, but 'text neck' and the 'iPad hunch' are an increasingly common side-effect."

Dr Hansraj's paper, to be published in the Surgical Technology International journal modelled the impact of leaning the head forward in terms of force on the cervical spine. In a normal standing position, an average adult head exerts 4.5 to 5.4 kg (10 to 12 pounds), but when the head tilts forwards at a 60 degree angle, the force exerted on the cervical spine is more than 27 kg (60 pounds).

The paper noted that people are spending an average of 2-4 hours each day looking at their phones and mobile devices, adding up to an average of 700-1400 hours each year when many people are imposing heavy strains on their neck and spine.

Chiropractors have warned of the health dangers of bad posture while texting or using iPads for some time, after seeing a growing number of patients appear in their waiting rooms with technology-use induced back and neck pain, Dr Coxon said.

"Chiropractors are known for expertise in back and neck pain and we are seeing an increasing number of Victorians coming through in serious pain because of their prolonged screen time," Dr Coxon said.

"Worryingly, a surprising number of people we see with these problems are young people. They can frequently get so absorbed in a game or a text conversation that they hunch over the device and this places great strain on the neck.

"Many young people are spending hours hunched over at a time that their spines are still developing, with a surprising number experiencing really unpleasant pain after too many hours bent over a screen."

Dr Coxon said people could reduce the risk of text neck by taking regular breaks from their devices, changing the way they used devices so they didn't hunch over to look at them and regular stretching.

"CAA Chiropractors have been dealing with this issue for some time and have a range of approaches to help people overcome text neck, with advice on how to avoid future spinal damage," Dr Coxon said.

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