So much for youth and vitality. The British Chiropractic Association has warned – trying not to sound too pleased about it – that the number of patients its members see under the age of 30 has shot up in the past year.
To blame? The iPhone neck-crane, the workplace slouch, the “sedentary epidemic” that makes the life of a young person increasingly hard to distinguish – in terms of movement hither and thither – from that of an octogenarian with short-term memory loss and a passion for House of Cards.
Now almost half of 16-24-year-olds report aches in the neck and pains in the back – a rise of 60 per cent since last year. However valid the study (and some might quibble with the science of chiropractors), I hope the younger generation as a whole feels a little sheepish about this. Typically, of course, the young do too much of something: too much taking of drugs, too much producing of children. All the same it would be a pity if the current form of overindulgence – too much sitting on your arse and looking at your phone – came to define the class of 2015.
Neck and back pain belong, in the Platonic order of things, to the old; to those who’ve found out that it’s actually the heaviness of being that’s unbearable; to those who’ve talked enough about vertebrae with relative strangers to have been told, by at least one philosophic hunchback, that it’s the fast pace of human evolution to blame (“We just weren’t designed to walk on two feet...”).
One can’t help but feel that coming to the end of your spinal grace period when barely started on the true slog of life is a bit wretched. Our parents went to the chiropractors after children and mortgages and Black Monday. We go because of Facebook.
Naturally the BCA offers some advice (besides, you know, starting a chiropractors slush fund). The most obvious is possibly the most sage: look up. Get up. Move around. “It’s really important to take regular breaks,” counsels one BCA member, “you’re back is always hard at work – even when you think you’re relaxing.”
It requires a touch of mental yoga to understand that he means the human body needs time off from activities that count as “time off” in themselves. “I’ve been watching the Shopping Channel for more than three hours,” you’re supposed to think. “Better give myself a break.” Then there are the “life hack” options: raise your computer screen so that the top is level with your eyebrows, adjust your seat (bum low, knees high), or get a job at Google and ask for one of those hilarious-but-possibly-worth-it standing desks – offered in its “employee wellness” program, which comes with additional free smugness.
Silicon Valley is in fact attempting to solve a problem its products are partly to blame for. Tim Cook claimed that “sitting is the new cancer” as he announced in February that the Apple Watch could cure it – sitting cancer, not cancer cancer – with a regular “stand up” ping to wearers.
If young people must purchase a £300 computerised watch to tell them not to spend so much time looking at computers, they deserve to spend life with a spine bent into the shape of a Hula Hoop. Many of us still believe an iWatch is not necessary to operate a brain.
The cheapest way to avoid chiropractors in general, I say (neck and back still mostly perpendicular) is to remember that one has a body before it starts to break down. How easy it is to spend days putting only one’s fingertips through their paces? Ankles, knees and toes don’t cross the mind. Forget about them, though, and they will eventually forget about you – another casualty to Netflix and the 9 to 5.
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