Throughout the day, at any given point, we may casually check our computer, laptop, or email and text messages on our smartphones for work or leisure. Our dependency on technology has led us to adapt some unhealthy habits that can have a significant toll on our health. The United Chiropractic Association (UCA) warns the “tech neck,” or forward-leaning posture we develop when using our laptops or mobile devices, can cause heart disease and breathing problems later in life.
The association, which has around 600 members in the UK, said in a statement that “poor posture is as big a health risk as obesity.” UCA believes posture has been an overlooked factor in our health, and it is only now that research has helped raise awareness of it, emphasizing that posture is more than just about how we look; it’s important for our health. Poor posture is found to increase the risk of earlier death in the elderly and could potentially decrease the timeline of the lives of younger people.
Known as society’s biggest users of smartphones and tablets, the younger generation could obliviously be shortening its life expectancy. When we text, we shift our posture, dropping our heads forward, which rounds the shoulders. This leads to an increased risk of having problems with the top of the neck, and especially the back, because the posture causes a change in its curve. Although poorer posture is associated with earlier death in the elderly, UCA fears this could develop earlier due to the length of time younger people spend sitting at the computer or using their smartphones.
“The problem is that when someone drops their head forward and rounds their shoulders, it becomes impossible for them to take a full breath in because of the restriction through the muscles and because the ribs can’t move properly,” said Estelle Zauner-Maughan, UCA executive member, explaining why mobile devices could lead to hyperkyphosis. The condition is characterized by a curvature of the spine that is over 40 degrees, known as a hunchback. The worsening of hyperkyphosis is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and pulmonary problems that make it difficult to breathe.
Seniors who have a small degree of hyperkyphosis have a 1.44 times greater risk of mortality than those without, The Telegraph reported. In comparison, this statistic is similar to the increased risk of death resulting from a body mass index that is greater than 30. The similarities drawn between hyperkyphosis and obesity are very alarming, especially since a younger age group is highly contingent on technology use on a day-to-day basis.
Although forward-leaning posture has become more of an issue as technology use is increasing, we can still have a degree of control. The UCA is urging people to have their posture checked by a registered chiropractor, as a means of taking steps to protect their spine and health. "We can change our habits. For example, restrict the amount of time you spend on mobile devices. And bring them up to your eye level, so that you’re not looking down,” said Edwina Waddell, UCA chiropractor, in the statement.
The typical American teenager sends approximately 60 texts a day, as texting has become the dominant daily mode of communication between teens and all those they text with. More than half of American adults, similar to teenagers, exchange more than 50 messages a day, and would much rather text than call.