MODERN HAZARD: Chiropractor Margaret Bryce says young people are damaging their spines by heavy usage of digital devices.
Children as young as 10 have spinal deformities caused by prolonged use of handheld devices, according to an Auckland chiropractor.
Margaret Bryce is deeply concerned by the increase in the number of people coming to her with straightening of the neck curve, or cervical kyphosis.
“When I was first in practice I only ever saw straightened out necks in people who were academics or who had head-down type jobs like seamstresses or office workers. Now, over the years, I’ve seen this intense shift to straightened out necks in younger and younger people.”
The cervical vertebrae in the neck should have a smooth curve which arches forward, she said.
The curve, which is developed among infants during “tummy time” when they are placed on their stomachs and naturally practise lifting their heads, provides flexibility, shock absorption and strength for the spine.
Straightening out this curve could interfere with the 17 trillion messages that passed through the spinal column every minute, Dr Bryce said.
She put the change down to the prevalence of handheld electronic devices such as cellphones and gaming machines.
“It used to be that head-down time was only during school time. Now, it seems to be all the time,” she said.
“I think it’s quite a problem, because what that means to your health is you start interfering with those 17 trillion messages.”
Dr Bryce had treated a 10-year-old who came to her because she was unable throw a ball in a straight line.
X-rays revealed the child’s neck vertebrae were straightened.
“When trying to send messages from the brain to the arms and vice-versa, that co-ordination isn’t there. She can’t throw straight, she just can’t make herself,” Dr Bryce said.
Pain from the condition was rarely a problem for younger people but it could become an issue in later life.
Dr Bryce said parents should encourage their children to take regular breaks from electronic devices.
“They need to stop, they need to go outside and get their heads looking up rather than looking down.
“If people think their child’s head is forward and the shoulders are rounded, more likely than not it’s a problem in the neck curve,” she said.
DANIELLE STREET/Fairfax NZ