Act smart, don’t let your smartphone be a pain in the neck!


Act smart, don’t let your smartphone be a pain in the neck!
Subhayan Dutta ■
Hindustan Times (Kolkata)
Feb 17 2016

Doctors have voiced concerns over the increasing use of smartphones, especially among the city’s youth, which causes users to crawl into bed and talk over phone for hours in ungainly postures or position their necks in an unhealthy manner for long hours. The trend, say doctors, is causing more and more users to be sucked into an epidemic called text neck syndrome.

“Of late, there has been an upsurge in the number of people with text neck syndrome. In the long term, text-neck can lead to spinal arthritis and disc prolapse, which may require surgical intervention,” said Sujoy Sanyal, senior consultant, minimal access spine and brain surgeon at RN Tagore Hospital.

Spinal arthritis is degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the centers of the spinal vertebrae. “It is also characterised by headaches, pain in the upper back, shoulder and neck, as well as increased curvature of the spine. If text neck is left untreated, it could lead to spinal degenerative problems. Disc prolapse can lead to pain, tingling sensations from the neck into the arm and in more advanced situations numbness, loss of power of grip and weakness in the legs and arms,” Sanyal said.Recent figures have ranked India as the secondlargest country in terms of tele-density, with more than 600 million people using phones. With the introduction of tablets, i-Pads and other such devices, more people, especially youths, have been drawn into the fad around smartphones.

In this day and age when smartphones, with a hatful of applications, have virtually brought the entire world into a 5 inch screen and have a range of items, including groceries, delivered at our doorstep at the click of a button, it is hard if not nigh impossible to swim against the tide.

“It is advisable for smartphone users to be aware of the problems and health hazards associated with it. Regular exercise twice or thrice a day, as prescribed, could help ward off all health risks. To stay in the race in today’s cut-throat, competitive world, it isn’t possible to keep oneself aloof fromsmartphones or computers,” Trishit Roy, exdirector of Bangur Institute of Neurology, told HT.

Roy said, “It is not a serious illness unless one ignores the symptoms for a long time. It’s not all about using smartphones. This posture of bending your neck does not occur only when texting. Even we used to bend our necks while studying or reading books. The problem with texting is that it adds to the stress on the neck when we look down. Sitting in front of desktops, playing chess, reading book in an ungainly posture for long hours could all lead to muscle contractions causing muscle spasm.”

Generally, the symptoms associated with this syndrome are — upper back pain ranging from a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms, shoulder pain and tightness resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm. If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and neurological symptoms could radiate down your arm and into your hand. Children and youth are more at risk as the syndrome could cause permanent damage to their cervical spines leading to lifelong neck pain. It especially affects the cervical spine (neck). The neck is delicate as it houses the spinal cord that sends messages from the brain to control all aspects of the body while also remarkably flexible, allowing movement in all directions, and strong.

Our spine is made up of 33 bones (24 articulating and 9 fused) called vertebrae supported by spongy inter-vertebral discs, which not only provide support to our neck and back but also enable mobility. As we age, factors such as improper posture, nutritionally deficient diet or abrasions make the spine stiff and vulnerable to wear and tear. The average human head weighs between 10lb and 12lb (4.5kg to 5.5kg), and flexing the neck makes it harder to support like carrying a similar weight at arm’s length.

Roy said, “When the head is over the shoulders, it is a bit like a balanced see-saw and when you move it forward you need to put a force in place to keep it in that position. The longer you are in that position for, the more the muscles have to accommodate it.”

Though the success rate of surgeries has improved with the advent of advanced technology and has made these procedures safe, cost-effective and less painful options. However, earlier they were not as effective, Sanyal said.

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