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How texting can be a pain in the neck
Dozens of cases of "text neck" - a condition linked to using mobile devices such as cellphones and MP3 players - are being reported each week, the Chiropractors' Association says.
It says the repetitive stress injury is on the rise in New Zealand and is likely to get worse, especially in young people who look down at mobile devices for long periods of time.
"It's believed that when someone has their head flexed forward while looking down at the screen on their hand-held device for long periods, the bones and muscles of the spine adapt to that posture and functional changes ensue," said association spokesman Hayden Thomas.
"These changes in the curve, supporting ligaments, tendons, musculature, as well as the bony segments, can eventually lead to nerve involvement, muscle spasms and pain."
Dr Thomas said it was hard to put a figure on the number of people already treated for text neck in New Zealand but he was seeing around 20 each week.
There was concern more people would suffer text neck as the popularity of hand-held mobile devices rose.
"However, changes can be made so that they have less of a negative impact on overall health and wellness."
Those changes included paying attention to posture when texting or looking at a hand-held device, holding the phone directly in front of the face while texting or reading emails to avoid bending the neck downward, and taking regular breaks.
"A few small tweaks to how you use your mobile, MP3 player or e-reader could mean a world of difference when it comes to the health and longevity of your spine, neck and muscles."
Text neck was discovered about two years ago by American chiropractic physician Dean Fishman
He noticed lots of young people coming into his office with similar complaints.
While talking to the mother of a 16-year-old girl who wanted to know what was wrong with her daughter, he looked over and noticed she was "buried in her cellphone with her head flexed forward - texting".
"With that I replied, 'It's simple. She has text neck'."
Dr Fishman said people aged 13 to 27 were one of the largest groups of texters so doctors could expect to see a large increase in the number of people with medical and chiropractic conditions over the next decade.
A University of Queensland study found text messaging to be the most addictive digital service on mobile or internet, and was equivalent in addictiveness to cigarette smoking.