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'Text Neck': A health concern every parent needs to know

(Photo: MGN Online)

Summer is just around the corner, and soon kids will have more time to play their video games and head to social media sites. But that comes with a health concern.

"Text neck," also known as "tech neck," is the pain and damage caused from looking down at a cell phone, tablet or other device too frequently and for too long.

"It's repeatedly stressing the tissues in the neck where you can strain them and sprain them," said Dr. Xavier Martinez, a chiropractor at Integrated Spinal Solutions.

The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. For every inch the neck leans forward and down, the compression weight on the neck and spine increases. At 60 degrees, it's 60 pounds of compressions. That's the weight of an average 9-year-old boy.

Dr. Martinez said text neck can weaken muscles and ligaments and even cause arthritis at an early age.

He said he's seeing more cases of text neck and in younger people.

"Typically when I first started, we saw patients in their mid-30s, 40s, 50s. Now, I'm seeing a shift in demographics to a younger base. Kids in their early teens, mid-teens, early 20s." He said. "Seeing that shift into the younger generation, it can have very severe consequences."

James Buda is a parent of 7-year-old Benjamin. He said he always monitors his gaming habits.

"We think about it quite often, every day really," he said.

But Buda said he never thought text neck was something he should worry about.

"That hasn't been something that's crossed my mind. I've more thought about brain development and eyesight. I haven't really thought of the other physical parts of it," Buda said.

Now it's something he'll pay attention to.

Symptoms of text neck are pain in the upper back, neck or shoulders that can get worse when looking down or using the computer.

Prevention is the key. Experts say hold your cell phone at eye level. Keep your neck straight and take frequent breaks.

There's even a phone app that alerts you if your phone is at a bad angle for viewing. A small green circle that shows up in the background of your screen indicates a good angle. A small red circle indicates the phone should be held upright.

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