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Tech is turning millennials into a generation of hunchbacks

Tech is turning millennials into a generation of hunchbacksIn his late teens, Charles Youn, now 29, developed the habit of hunching over his phone. Last year, he was diagnosed with "tech neck," which has resulted in pain and trouble sleeping.

For years, Charles Youn, 29, suffered from upper-back pain and neck soreness that made him hunch his shoulders and caused him to wake up numerous times throughout every night. He was in pain and constantly fatigued, drinking too much coffee to combat the sluggishness.

"I learned to live with it," says Youn, who works in development for leadership nonprofit Outward Bound and lives on the Upper East Side. "My upper back and neck would be so tight. My neck was always bent forward, and I just thought that's how it was going to be."

This past fall, Youn consulted with chiropractor Dr. Christian Kang, who has a practice in the Flatiron District and explained that Youn was holding his problem in the palms of his hands: His laptop and iPhone were causing his pain.

Youn suffers from "tech neck," or forward head syndrome, a painful, increasingly common condition caused by slumping over devices for hours a day that leads the neck to lose its natural curve - and triggers a physiological imbalance in the upper body. Previously seen in middle-age or older desk jockeys and dentists who hunch over patients, it's now materializing in younger generations who grew up with smartphones, tablets and other personal devices.

"Now, 20-year-olds have the spine health of a 30- or 40-year-old. It's an epidemic," says Kang.

Dr. Brian Wallace, a chiropractor based in Bernardsville, NJ, says he's witnessing the same thing at his practice. "We're seeing it in younger and younger children because they're getting their phones at a younger age," he says. "It's one of the most common things we see." According to a 2016 study by the research firm Influence Central, the average age at which an American child gets their first smartphone is 10.3 years.

In this X-ray of a patient with a forward head syndrome, which can stem from leaning over cellphones and laptops, the red line shows a deviated neck and spine. The green line represents the ideal natural spinal curve, says chiropractor Christian Kang.Courtesy of Kang Corrective Chiropractic

As posture worsens, the upper back muscles stretch out, while the muscles in the front of the body become weaker and the neck creeps forward, which can make the head feel at least 10 pounds heavier than it is. Not only does it cause structural problems in the neck and back, Wallace says it can also spark breathing and panic issues.

"When you have that forward-rolled posture, it has a profound impact on the breathing. Children have become shallow breathers, which then affects anxiety levels because your nervous system can't function properly," says Wallace, adding that medical issues such as asthma and allergies can develop.

Dr. Vito Minervini, a chiropractor based in Rockaway, NJ, says young women are particularly susceptible to the condition because they have lower muscle density in their upper body area.

"It's bad all around, but guys can take it more because they have more musculature," says Minervini.

Sania Khiljee, a Houston-based entrepreneur, and blogger, knows this all too well. The 27-year-old founder of Bumble Brain Box, a subscription box service focused on child development, saw her body simply give out as her business began to take off two years ago.

"I was literally looking down at my phone and laptop for hours every single day. Two of my discs got herniated and it pushed into nerves and then the muscles in my shoulders got really hard," says Khiljee.

Khiljee's doctors were explicit: Her tech overuse was fueling the frightening breakdown.

"It's hard to explain, but my neck couldn't support the weight of my head. I had no mobility." She desperately sought solutions, including forsaking a comfortable bed. "My bed was too soft, so I slept on the floor for months."

Sania Khiljee had to put her career on hold to focus on her health.
As the pressure and pain mounted, she made an agonizing decision to sell her fledgling business and focus on regaining her health - including weekly appointments with a physical therapist and an acupuncturist. She is still blogging and works in social media marketing, but she's made good posture her priority.

"I'm not fully over it yet, but I'm finally recovering," says Khiljee, who realized she wasn't alone when she posted about her health woes on Facebook.

"I had about 100 comments of people saying they had the same issues," she says. "It was all people my age."

But iPhone-obsessed millennials poring over Instagram and Snapchat all day don't want to admit that their precious electronic lifelines might be detrimental to their health.

Minervini says his office is a revolving door of denial. Patients come in for neck pain and balk at the suggestion that it's a technology issue.

"They'll say, ‘I don't know where this pain is coming from,' and it's a completely ridiculous statement. You [see] them hunched over their phones in the waiting room."

Charles Youn undergoes a session on a traction unit, to help decompress his cervical spine. Chiropractor Christian Kang says he often uses it on patients with tech neck for 10 to 20 minutes two or three times a week.Brian Zak

"I have patients coming in with their kids and every kid is out in the waiting room with some sort of device in a crappy posture. I go out and yell at them all the time - and they aren't even my patients. It's not a natural position and you'll destroy your spine, eventually."

Undoing the damage is a process that includes breaking bad habits, taking standing breaks and doing exercises such as yoga, foam rolling and stretches that promote good carriage and strengthen the core and upper body muscles. Experts also advise patients to hold mobile devices with their elbows at 180 degrees so the screen is in front of their faces.

Minervini says early intervention is key to combating a lifetime of debilitating health issues.

‘"You have to be cognizant of your crappy habits and work against them."

Youn, for one, regrets all the time he spent slumped over his phone. He began seeing Kang for spinal adjustments and exercises to combat his rolled shoulders. After 36 sessions, his posture has improved, he feels taller and there's been a reduction in pain.

Plus he's now sleeping soundly.

"I wish I had more education on this as a teen. Knowing all this would prevent a lot of stress for people in their 20s," says Youn. "I've become a posture ambassador now."

Source: By Kirsten Fleming March 5, 2018

This article is provided by Kent East Chiropractic your 100 Year Lifestyle Affiliate Chiropractor in Kent WA

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