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  • Physiotherapists treat more iHunch pain

    Author: Karen Keast

New Zealand’s peak physiotherapy organisation has urged people using smart phones, tablets and laptops for extended periods of time to avoid ‘iHunch’ with good posture and regular movement.

Physiotherapists and chiropractors in the nation are reporting increasing numbers of teenagers and adults seeking treatment for severe neck and upper back pain, labelled ‘iHunch’, ‘tech neck’ and ‘text neck’, as people spend more time with their shoulders hunched over their handheld and mobile devices.

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Physiotherapy New Zealand said while there’s little research examining the impact of handheld devices on the body, technology alone is not to blame.

“We believe that this is about more than just technology use. Poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle and limited physical activity/exercise are not good for our health and can contribute to neck and back issues,” it said in a statement.

“Whenever you are in a fixed position for too long, your muscles are under stress. It could be sitting at a desk for six hours straight, working on a production line or using your cellphone for extended periods.

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“It is not about ditching technology but about making sure people and particularly children are educated about not putting the body into fixed postures for extended periods and encouraging them to break up their day with movement/physical activity.”

The statement comes after an American study found poor posture placed excessive stress on the cervical spine.

The average human head weighs between 4.5 to 5.5kg. The study showed that as the head bent forward, the force on the cervical spine increased.

With a 15 degree angle of forward head tilt, the weight on the cervical spine grew to 12.2kg while at 60 degrees the weight was 27.2kgs.

Study author Dr Kenneth Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, said people spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over, reading and texting on their smart phones and devices.

“Cumulatively this is 700 to 1400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine. It is possible that a high school student may spend an extra 5,000 hours in poor posture,” he said.

“Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine. These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

Physiotherapy New Zealand said physiotherapists can identify the cause of people’s back and neck pain, help relieve the symptoms, and provide tailored advice.

“If you spend extended periods using cellphones or other handheld devices, a physiotherapist can provide advice on how to avoid ‘iHunch’.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords