(WJBK) - You see it everywhere -- people walking while looking down on their phone. And most are probably unaware of the strain they're putting on their neck.
Staring at a smartphone for hours a day with your neck bent down at an odd angle and seemingly frozen leads to early wear and tear on the spine. Experts are calling it text neck.
"The weight of your head, and as you flex and flex and flex [to look down], you incrementally increase the amount of stress in your cervical spine," says Dr. Alex Ficaro. He's a spine surgeon and president at Rothman Institute.
He says, thanks to our modern world and the reliance on electronic devices, text neck is an epidemic.
"I was laughing with friends. I said, 'That's going to lead to a lot more spine surgery,'" he says.
He says the problem is the human head weighs about 12 pounds, but as the neck bends forward and down the weight on the cervical spine increases. At a 60 degree angle, that's 60 pounds. To put that into perspective?
"Looking down at a device is like having an 8-year-old child hanging off your neck for 2-3 hours every day," Ficaro says.
Adults spend an average of 2-4 hours every day hunched over their phones. That's 700-1400 hours a year people are putting stress on their spines. Young people are especially at risk.
"I now see kids 8, 9, 10 having handheld devices in their hand, because we want to know where they are and so forth, but it can have a longterm effect," he says.
So, what can you do?
- Limit the use of devices and set boundaries for your kids
- Hold your device at eye level