Hunching down looking at electronic devices leading to huge increase in people with neck and back problems, experts warn

Experts report huge rise in number of 18- to 24-year-olds with neck and back problems

Sedentary lifestyles and repeatedly looking down at mobile phones and other devices have led to a huge rise in the number of young people who are experiencing back and neck pain, experts have warned. 

Forty-five per cent of the 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) said they are currently living with neck or back pain, compared with 28 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds last year.

“When people use laptops or mobile phones in bed they tend to forget their posture, hunch over the screen and leave their spine unsupported, which can damage posture and cause back or neck pain,” said BCA chiropractor  Tim Hutchful,

He added that he was “concerned that the number of patients under the age of 30 coming through our doors is increasing”.

His colleague and fellow BCA chiropractor Rishi Loatey said he had seen a definite rise in the number of young patients.

“The only sort of neck pain we used to see with that age group was people who had been in car accidents,” he said. “But now the vast majority of neck pains are people from secondary school upwards.”

A large number of his patients were IT consultants who come in with neck and arm pain, he added.

“We sort of joke about it,” Mr Loatey said. “But on a serious note, they spend eight to  10 hours a day at work on their computers, they go to and from work looking at their phones and then when they get home they are social surfing. There has been quite a dramatic change over the last five or 10 years.”

On an average day the BCA found that Britons spend around two hours sitting and looking at mobile technology, almost four hours looking at a laptop or desktop computer and almost three hours watching TV and films. 

Across all age groups, the BCA survey found that 86 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned said back and neck pain was a problem, a rise of nine points from the 77 per cent last year.

“We’re seeing a rise in the number of people experiencing back and neck-related problems because our modern lifestyle is forcing us to stay seated,” said Mr Hutchful.

“Sitting causes up to twice as much pressure on discs on the spine as standing so, as a nation, we’re vulnerable,”  he added.

To avoid problems, the BCA recommends that people sit with their bottom against the back of the seat, with their  shoulder blades touching the chair back. Drivers should set the seat slightly backwards.

Those working with screens should ensure their eyebrows are level with the top and their chairs are tilted slightly forward. Standing up or changing position every 20 minutes would also help.  

“Your back is always hard at work, even when you think you’re relaxing,” said  Mr Hutchful. “So ensuring you move and stretch regularly will help to keep your back on track.”

Case study: My poor posture

After suffering from back pain for over a year, Uzair Siddiqi’s doctor found he had weak core back muscles and advised the 19-year-old economics student from London to seek professional help.

The pain isn’t really, really bad but it’s a dull pain and I am in a lot of discomfort. I do spend a lot of time looking down at my phone, although I am well aware that people get neck problems from doing so and I try and avoid it. It’s almost impossible not to though. As soon as it beeps, it’s like an automatic reaction to pull it out of your pocket to check who it is and what they want.

But I think a lot of the trouble comes from poor posture, leaning over my desk and studying. I use a laptop and a desktop, I’ve been experimenting with different chair heights, but nothing seems to work, so I’m hoping professional help will sort it once and for all.

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