I have to admit that I've seen the results of this as well. Technology is great, but in the absence of a good all-around workout program, it can be very detrimental to physical well-being. Technology is not the villain. It is the lack of exercise and movement that is the real enemy here.
Local physical therapists say they've seen an uptick in teens complaining of “text neck,” back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology. (Jon Langham / Naperville Sun)
By Suzanne Baker•Contact Reporter
August 13, 2016, 10:35 AM
High school athletes could be more at risk for in-game injuries for activities outside of the game.
A national chain of physical therapy clinics reports that more teens than ever are complaining of "text neck," back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology.
"I am shocked by how many patients come in complaining of neck pain," said Anne Bierman, a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy's Naperville South office on 95th Street.
Bierman said in the past the majority of patients with neck and shoulder were adults who slouch when sitting at their computers a day. Now she's seeing more teens with the condition.
Long periods of looking down can be stressful on the body, whether staring at a cellphone, laptop or tablet.
On average, for every 10 degrees a person tilts the head downward puts 10 pounds of pressure on the spine, Bierman said.
Her information echoes research published in 2014 in the National Library of Medicine that warns the extra weight — sometimes up to 60 pounds — on the cervical spine caused by looking down can lead to wear and tear on the vertebrae and degeneration that may require surgery.
Athletes are vulnerable because "text neck" causes a loss of muscle strength.
Bierman, a former college athlete, said weak shoulder muscles can result in poor performance, more injuries and longer recovery times.
Weak muscles also put more pressure on shoulder joints, limit normal range of motion and cause pain when swimming, throwing a baseball or softball, striking a football stance, spiking a volleyball or performing other sports activities.
"We're dealing with a lot more high school athletes who've had surgeries," said Bierman, who played soccer at St. Louis University and is a board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy.
Because her office is adjacent to Neuqua Valley High School, Bierman said she treats many Neuqua Valley students, athletes and nonathletes alike.
Both Naperville School District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204 contract with Oak Brook-based Athletico for athletic training services at all their high schools.
The problem of "text neck" could become even more prevalent and extend into more of the nonathlete student population as more teachers turn to technology to supplement their lesson planIn Naperville School District 203, every junior high and high school student will be issued Chromebooks this year for use in the classroom and for homework.
Indian Prairie School District 204 also will distribute Chromebooks to its middle school students this fall and will pilot laptops at the high school level in preparation to issue them next year..
Neither district has a policy limiting the amount of time tech is used during the day.
Bierman urged all students, whenever possible, to consider elevating computer screens to eye level, using a keyboard that keep elbow at one's side, and taking breaks every 30 minutes to perform reversal of posture exercises (see accompanying information).
She said between classes, students might want to stretch their neck and shoulder muscles during passing periods.
Long-term effects from "text neck" can lead to chronic pain and surgical intervention later in life, she said.
Janet Buglio, District 204 executive director of communication services, said tech devices are merely tools.
"Keep in mind teachers create lessons using other thiwngs than just devices. Kids are not looking at screens in every class for the full class period every day," she said.
That philosophy was echoed by Michelle Fregoso, District 203 director of communications.
"Kids are not on the devices all day or in every class. Teachers often have lessons that don't include the devices," Fregoso said.
Bierman, who lives in Aurora, said it's important for parents to teach their children proper posture early.
The mother of three boys, Bierman said her children — ages 1, 3 and 5 — already know how to use a tablet, and she's finds she's constantly harping on their posture.
"I grew up attending Catholic school. I feel like the old nun waving rulers over me," she said.
In this digital age, even Bierman sometimes struggles with "text neck."
Ever since her office switched to documentation on tablets, she said she's had to practice what she preaches.
"It's a general overall self-awareness. I need to remember to stop and stretch, too," she said.
Tribune wire services contributed.
Stretches to prevent 'text neck'
Athletico suggests the following stretches and exercises to counteract "text neck" and maintain and improve posture.
Shoulder blade squeeze: Pinch your shoulder blades back behind you, working to touch your elbows. Once back as far as you can go, hold this position for five seconds before relaxing. Repeat this 20 to 30 times.
Neck stretch: Sit up tall with your head held high. Pull your chin toward your chest, creating a double chin, and hold this position for five seconds. Repeat this 20 to 30 times.
Chest stretch: Stand in the middle of a doorway and hold both ends of the door frame. Lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 20 to 30 times.
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