No, we’re not simply talking about the fact that it seems to be surgically attached to their hand. Technology is such that even the youngest children now know their way around an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
Whereas older generations had to make do with an IT suite at school and dial-up internet, our children have tablets in every classroom and can find anything they’re looking for at the click of a button.
However, long-term use of smartphones and tablets has led to a huge increase in children and teenagers being diagnosed with chronic neck and back pain. In the past, younger patients would usually be referred to an osteopath because of a sporting or dance injury. Now, hand-held devices are much more likely to be to blame.
The average human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. Anyone who has fallen asleep with their head at a funny angle will know how stiff and painful your neck can be the following morning.
Children’s heads are around as heavy as an adult’s, yet their bodies are much smaller and their muscles are far less developed. This means that leaning forward can exert quite a strain on the spine. Research has shown that by tilting your head just 15º exerts 27lbs on your spine – 15lb more than if your head is held in a neutral position in line with your shoulders. If your head drops to 60º, which is the angle you’ll probably be at when scanning a mobile device and the load on your spine can increase to around 60lbs!
Now imagine your child, with their smaller, less developed bodies playing on their smartphone or tablet for a decent length of time and it’s not surprising that they end up in pain and discomfort.
In the short term, children and young people can experience muscle fatigue from spending too long on a device. Yet the sad fact is that excessive gaming can actually result in strain on developing muscles, discs and joints. This chronic condition can adversely affect the way in which their bodies grow.
Therefore, it is essential that children don’t lean forward for long periods of time. It is all too easy for time to get away from you whilst they are playing on their tablet and you’re sorting dinner or hanging up the washing. But with children as young as nine now having issue with their posture and development, it is incredibly important that you help your offspring adopt a more healthy way of spending time on their mobile device.
The most effective way of minimising the chance of pain and discomfort in the neck and lower back is to minimise the amount of time they spend on their smartphone or tablet (and yes, we realise that this is not going to be a popular decision!)
You can also buy pads that enable your tablet to be held in one hand and used at face level, which deters children from leaning over as much.
Your osteopath can also suggest various exercises designed to help with posture and stretch their muscles.
Are you concerned that your child is suffering chronic neck or back pain after using a smartphone or tablet?
For further information, then please ‘Ask Andy’. There’s really no need to suffer in silence, help is at hand. You can either book an appointment by clicking here or by calling our Billericay Practice on 01277 650010; Pinner Practice on 0208 868 3555 or Parkstone Practice on 01202 734211.