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Digital screens and Gadgets addiction leading to cervical issues in children

Gadgets have become an inseparable part of our lives today, especially for children. The technological era has helped us move closer to the future but at the cost of taking us far away from very good habits from the past. The double-edged sword in the face of these devices is doing more harm than good to children’s minds, bodies, and the entire lifestyle. The list of lifestyle diseases in short-term as well as chronic forms is becoming an ever-increasing one and despite the awareness, ignorance towards better lifestyle choices still prevails. Engaging with electronic devices has not only become a part of life but is swiftly transcending to become life. More and more body problems have now started to occur at a younger age. Some years back, the only pains children would usually experience would be that after an injury they had while playing some sport. However, in the present scenario, children complaining of neck pains, backaches, eyesight problems, and headaches have become a common deal.

Back and neck pains due to excessive strain on the spine, that often are cervical pains have become one of the most common pain to happen in a child’s body. Cervical pain happens due to cervical spondylolysis or osteoarthritis, involving changes in the bones, disc or joints that are connected to the neck.

Some of the reasons for cervical pain in children are:

  • Long hours in a fixed position
  • Improper posture
  • Heavy bags
  • Uncomfortable seat

The maximum share of causing this problem lies with the continuous usage of gadgets. Poor position while sitting or sleeping, or studying or while using the computer, smartphone, or television for long hours without altering their position and sitting inappropriately leads to neck and back pain from a very young age. Cervical problems at such a tender age are very harmful as it tends to stay for a lifetime affecting the posture of the child life-long if not taken into account timely.

Long durations of time spend leaning the head forward and down puts the neck under extreme pressure and results into neck pain that is often caused by a muscle strain as anyone hardly acknowledges their posture while using gadgets.

Smartphones’ addiction in children is resulting into ‘hunchbacks’ owing to the house they spend hunched over these gadgets, gravely damaging their necks and spines, also leading to a rise in the cases of ‘text neck’ or ‘I-Posture’ or I-Slouch’. Eyes glued on the digital screens, shouldered rounded, back hunched, thumb continuously scrolling, neck bent forwards in a slumped position is the most common sight in colleges, cafes, bus tops, homes, schools, anywhere and everywhere.

Health experts explain, when one is mostly staring in a forward and downward position at any handheld device strains the neck and the spine further. A human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position and when you hold it in this angle, it extensively strains your neck muscles. For every inch, you tilt your head forward, the pressure on the spine doubles. Putting tremendous pressure on your spine, this can cause misalignment of the vertebrae and spinal discs. If not noted early at a young age and continued like this, the figure itself turns hunched over a device even with the absence of the device. If left untreated, the condition can cause permanent damage, including flattening of the spinal curve, early onset of arthritis, spinal degenerations, loss of lung volume capacity and even gastrointestinal problems.

Few to do in case of cervical pain:

  • A warm bath can help relax the tight muscles
  • Stretching exercises of neck and hand
  • Lie down on the back while using a cellphone
  • Keep the phone at eye level when sitting or standing
  • Keep the back straight as much as possible
  • Take regular screen breaks

Understanding the anatomic and biological features specifically to the developing pediatric spine is needed to care for the children with disorders of the cervical spine. Thorough awareness and timely treatment and cautions can save the body from several problems.

Although gadgets and improper posture top the list of causes leading to cervical issues in children, heavy backpacks also increase the strain on muscles, leading to unusual posture and spinal alignment. While kids are not likely to exhibit immediate symptoms, lower back pain, and lower neck area are some of the initial indications. In the long run, neglecting these aspects might lead to spinal deformity also known as‘kyphoscoliosis’ which is described as an abnormal curvature of the spine.

By: Dr. Ravichandra Kelkar, Consultant – Orthopedics, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal

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