If your child is on their cell phone right now, ask them to stop. You may want them to sit a little differently after you hear this. There's a new mobile health problem called Text Neck and it's causing concern for young people, especially teenage girls.
Like most teenagers, 14-year-old Leanna Wolf of Chittenango spends much of her day texting.
"I use it at lunch and sometimes in the hall and then when I get home and a little bit before I go to bed. So it's quite a bit," Wolf said. The teen admits she spends at least two hours a day on her phone and often gets headaches.
That may be due to something called Text Neck, pain caused by frequently leaning over to text.
"At first it surprised me. I hadn't really thought of it," her mother Lori said. "You don't want them on electronics all the time for a lot of different reasons, and I didn't really think about their posture when they're on electronics."
It's a new phenomenon similar to carpal tunnel or Blackberry thumb, but in your neck and shoulders. It's something Dr. Vincent Sportelli, a Chiropractic Physician, started seeing pop up last year, particularly in young girls.
"Especially teen females were coming in complaining of neck pain. Age 12, 13, 14, which is relatively young, that I never saw in the last 30 years," said Dr. Sportelli.
What's to blame? Texting. Slumped over with their head down constantly, it puts pressure on the nerves, causing pain.
"That forward lean causes strain and stress on the ligaments and discs and muscles on the back of the neck," Dr. Sportelli said.
That can eventually cause headaches, stiffness of the neck, shoulder, arm and hand pain. And it can lead to even bigger problems like attention issues and trouble sleeping. If left untreated, it can cause bulging discs and burning pain, which could mean painkillers or even surgery down the road. "The neck is actually straightening out so instead of being curved, this is actually straightening and causing the distortion here," Dr. Sportelli said.
And it's a problem that won't go away anytime soon with Americans sending out nearly 197 billion texts per month. Teenage girls text more than any other group, sending and receiving more than 4,000 texts per month.
It is reversible by correcting your posture, something Dr. Sportelli talks to his own 12-year-old daughter about since she just started using a cell phone.
"He tells me to put it right in front of my face, instead of crouching my head down," Sophia Sportelli said.
The human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds so leaning over constantly takes a toll. Dr. Sportelli suggests keeping your head and shoulders back, bringing your phone up to eye level, maintaining good posture and avoiding putting your head down.