Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are worried about Americans' posture. Apparently, it's being corrupted by smartphone addiction, and may result in series spinal injuries later in life.
The head is heavy, roughly a dozen pounds on average, and all that weight requires the support of the neck and vertebra. The human spine, of course, is well equipped for the job when sitting or standing upright -- in other words, when we are displaying proper posture.
But the burden of our dome becomes greater as our posture becomes corrupted, as we slouch or our neck and head lean ahead. In fact, as the neck leans forward 45 degrees, the relative weight of the head more than quadruples -- from 12 to 49 pounds. At 60 degrees, its relative weight is 60 pounds.
Increasingly, smartphone users are hunched over putting undue pressure on their spines, researchers say. And the physical consequences of that pressure accumulate over time. The condition, sometimes called "text neck," can wear down the spine, eventually requiring surgery.
In a paper submitted to the National Library of Medicine, study author Kenneth Hansraj -- who serves as chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine -- says text neck is now a growing epidemic.
"It is an epidemic or, at least, it's very common," Hansraj told The Washington Post. "Just look around you, everyone has their heads down."
Many chiropractors and physical therapists say they are already seeing the effects of text neck and other technology-induced maladies.
Hansraj's solution isn't neo-Luddism, he says tech users simply need to be more aware of their posture. Use your eyes, not your neck and head to peer down at the screen, he advises. And try stretching your head from side to side periodically, to keep loose and limber.
"I love technology. I'm not bashing technology in any way," Hansraj said. "My message is: Just be cognizant of where your head is in space. Continue to enjoy your smartphones and continue to enjoy this technology -- just make sure your head is up."