Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and news feeds on mobile devices are literally becoming a pain in the neck and back side for Australian teenagers.
It’s no secret that teenagers love their smartphones and a 2016 Roy Morgan Research report shows that more than one million Australian teens aged 14 to 17 (91%) own a mobile phone which contributes to neck and posture problems, according to professionals.
A survey released by the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (NSW) in April shows Chiropractors are seeing on average between 11 to 20 patients a week suffering chronic neck pain, headaches, poor posture and repetitive strain injuries in the wrist and hands from texting – 45 per cent of the patients were teenagers.
Dr Garry Coleman has been a chiropractor for 38 years and believes spinal care during the developing young years is crucial, and technology overuse combined with a sedentary lifestyle causes structural issues that impact the body as a result.
“Postural issues put more stress on the spine and are likely to create the problems we need to deal with in order for the body to function at optimum, and over time I have seen posture care deteriorate and the overuse of mobile phones is the biggest contributor,” he told Dscribe.
“People need to have a level of awareness, be aware of what it’s like to have good posture when sitting and walking upright, good posture even applies when lying and sleeping.”
Dr Coleman also encourages movement by simply going for a walk to help deal with physical stress on spines, particularly for growing children.
The Australian Child Health Poll released a report with some key findings that the majority of Australian children across all age groups are exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time.
Teenagers spend almost 44 hours on average per week on screen-based devices, which the poll defined as computers, laptops, smartphones, television and other tablets. That’s more than the equivalent of a full-time job.
Leanne Hillard has been taking her two daughters, aged 10 and 13, to a chiropractor every month for their general well-being and to prevent posture problems caused by the use of digital devices, which she admits are used a lot in her household.
“They generally hold their iphones at a lower level which causes strain to their neck, back and shoulders which make them slouch and tilt forward without them even realising, so I always tell them to have a break every 30 minutes, stand up, walk around and stretch so that they are conscious of their posture,” she said.
“A visit to the chiropractor is like a tune-up and simple exercises they do when they’ve been seated for long periods of time and slouched over their work has made such a difference.”
The CAANSW released the following guidelines for technology overuse:
- Limit the use of screen time after school hours. Most adult chronic pain problems develop in children aged five to 15 years, the crucial years for spinal health and development.
2. When you sit in front of the computer, hips, elbows and knees should be at open angles (slightly more than 90 degrees), recline slightly to ease lower back pressure, keep thighs parallel to the floor, ensure feet are flat on the floor and sit one arms-length from the monitor.
3. Avoid slouching or hunching over the device. Position your monitor, tablet or phone at eye level. Avoid use of technology whilst in bed or lying on the floor.
4. Alternate computer use with handwriting. It not only improves your handwriting style, but you are also stretching your arms and using your muscles.
5. Perform simple stretching exercises to promote good posture. See www.strightenupaustralia.com.au to download the program.