The Digital Neck: Forward head posture and its effects on teenagers
Does this look familiar?
A row of teenagers with their heads bent forward, hunched and with rounded shoulders.
What’s the problem?
Teenager’s digital device use has sharply increased in the past 9 years. If we look at South Korea, the most digitally connected country in the world, the leap in mobile phones owned by teenagers went from 5 million units in 2010 to more than 40.12 million in just 4 years.
Along with this trend research has shown that there exists a significant relationship between forward head bending posture and sitting for more than five hours, with neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, headaches and reduced mobility.
A normal head weighs 4-5 kilograms in good aligned posture. In the picture above we see heads tilted forward at 45 to 60 degrees, which means their heads now compress the neck by 22 to 27 kg more! The immediate effect is a pulling of the spinal cord. The brain then reacts by tightening the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles and “locking” vertebrae, to prevent damage. The problem is that this produces widespread “dis-communication” within the brain-body loop, along with cognitive decline such as focus, memory, learning… It also affects mood and empathy.
This is not exactly a recipe for an open and expansive state!
Why does it matter?
There are many reasons and I will point out a few salient ones.
There is a direct correlation between your posture and how you feel about yourself. Dr. Amy Cuddy in her book “Presence”, demonstrated by quoting 276 scientific studies, (some of them her own), that posture greatly influences the perception of self-worth and the world around us.
Another key factor to take into consideration is the fact that teenagers undergo a major physical growth spur coupled with a rapid brain “rewiring” of nearly 50% of the brain synapses. (That’s why you may be thinking “I don’t recognize you anymore, what happened to my little angel?”)
When you have a “Text Neck” (meaning stuck and tilted forward), and have constant body irritation, this is not compatible with optimal growth and development. She/he needs a great posture and a coherent and efficient nervous system.
When this isn’t the case we may see symptoms such as attention deficit, impaired learning, increased impulsivity, less empathy, sleep problems… (Smartphone addiction is a corollary topic that I will address in another article).
However when problems do occur you need specific personalized solutions, not just medications or counselling, (those do not change the posture or the spine nor the neuro-circuitry).
How can I help?
The key is to assess the brain’s posture control system in real-time, with “practical neurology” as I like to call it. The posture system is what allows you to sit and stand upright, and to counteract the effects of gravity. The success of my Neuro-Posture Correction care begins with identifying your teenager’s unique patterns: through “stress and test” (for example eye and balance coordination), seated and standing posture, muscle strength, spinal mechanics and more.
Once the weaker links are identified, target specific home and school posture correction exercises are provided (in the form of video links), along with new habits, as key elements to resolve pain patterns, optimal posture, focus and an upbeat mood.
Sessions to “unlock” the spine, with my Neuro-Spine Method of gentle chiropractic, ensure optimal alignment, flexibility and energy flow to power-up postural muscles and harmonize the body and emotions. This is exactly what we accomplished with a 15 year old patient, who had a deviated spine, was “doubled over” when sitting and restless during classes (she was always getting in trouble with her teachers). She was also distressed by her interaction with her step mother. Today she is her cheerful self, family dynamics are great and her grades have gone up. Amusingly enough, the other day she commented to me, “I can’t believe how poorly some of my class mates are sitting!” ☺
In addition, through specific photographs of your teenager’s desk space, I can make recommendations on proper device set-up and use.
Finally, food and nutrient therapy are provided. If a teenagers has for instance sluggish energy or mental fog, it may be necessary to eliminate foods that trigger inflammation of his/her gut or recommend specific nutrient support to make the brain happier!
What you can do today?
- Check your teenager’s posture
Simply take a photo of their profile, while they are standing and looking straight ahead. Check to see if the ears are aligned with the shoulders or if they are forward. If so it’s time for a posture system assessment.
- Make some rules together
Balance technology use, for example, limit to 2 hours a day the use of technology (not school related) or no internet-connected devices (computer, iPad, mobile etc) in the bedroom after “lights out”.
- Download general posture breaks exercises
When you go to me website, www.vitaliaquiro.com, you will have the opportunity to download some exercises to get started.
- Schedule a yearly posture system and spinal health check
Unlike teeth, the spinal column cannot be replaced and needs to be checked, along with posture. They are key for optimal brain development and an essential element in ensuring your child is living up to their unique potential, gifts and contributions.
MumAbroad Kids get a special discount. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Schedule a Parent’s Posture Education workshop with Dr Poli
To expose them to tips on how to use technology, proper sitting, adjusting back packs, the available posture correction exercises and the need for spinal health.
During her 34 years of clinical experience Dr Muriel Poli has helped thousands of executives and professionals, as well as their families, in restoring their health and work performance, and to awaken to a full and rich life of vitality. She frequently offers workshops to educate her patients, corporations and parent’s associations on the importance of spinal health, posture correction and computer neuro-ergonomics. In 2010 she moved to Barcelona and founded the Vitalia Quiropractica Center.