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Neck pain adds to adolescent angst

Dr. Steven Heidinger writes about smart phones and neck pain
Wellness Column by Dr. Steven Heidinger

I had neck and upper back pain as an adolescent. I remember it well because it was one of the reasons why I started to seek care from a chiropractor. I suffered a major car accident and a sport’s injury years earlier, which made sense as to why I experienced this type of pain. 

I see a number of adolescents in my chiropractic practice who have similar complaints. The striking difference between now and when I was a youngster, is that most of these adolescents do not have a history of a traumatic event. The majority of these kids cannot identify a reason for their pain.  

Upon examination of their spines, these kids show limited mobility and muscle tightness. Interestingly, the quality of the muscle tightness is similar to the tightness seen in adults who have spent years sitting behind a computer. Kids are presenting with chronic symptoms and showing findings of chronic postural strain.

Research tells us that up to 40 percent of adolescents experience musculoskeletal pain, like back and neck pain. This is up from nearly 23 percent in 1991 and nearly 30 percent in 2011. This is a chronic problem, and it is getting worse. 

So, if there is no history of trauma in many of these cases, why are so many kids getting spinal pain?  Easy question I believe. Smart phones!  

My generation had no smart phones at that age. If my generation had neck pain in adolescence it was almost always due to some sort of injury. For kids these days, it is more than likely from repetitive postural strain.

I must sound like a broken record, the number of times I bring up this topic. It needs to be identified as a public health problem. Many kids who suffer from recurrent neck pain, experience it two to three times per week. Research shows it restricts activities of daily living, it is responsible for school absenteeism, and inferences with family routines.

The social costs are bad enough and the financial costs will be evident in the decades to come. Chronic neck pain in youth will most likely lead to early spinal degeneration. Cost of treatment and disability will strain future governments, insurance companies, and employers.

It is often said that sitting is the new smoking. Maybe texting is an even newer smoking. 

The sad thing about this is that texting is sure to be with our kids forever. Musculoskeletal pain will be with them as well. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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