HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Cell phones. Tablets. Handheld gadgets. These days you might be hard-pressed to find anyone not carrying one of these devices. That is especially true for kids, tweens and teens who use the devices to text, post on social media and play games.
"When you look around you see that everyone has their head down," Henrico teen Heather Fielders said about the role phone play in every day life. "They're texting and walking in the hallways."
But at what cost?
The hours teens spend looking down at their phones has become a pain in the neck -- literally. Doctors call it "text neck." It's keeping chiropractors across the country very busy.
"Who has cell phones? Who texts? Just about everyone. Yes, it's an epidemic -- it absolutely is," West End chiropractor Dr. Michael Albanese said.
Albanese said the forward head posture that comes with constantly staring down at a screen can, over time cause pinched nerves and even flatten or reverse the natural curve of your neck and potentially pull your spine out of alignment.
"From a functional standpoint, your spine is protecting what's inside - your nervous system,” Albanese explained. “If your spine isn't properly aligned it means that the nerves are being interfered with."
Albanese said when kids are constantly hunched over, developing text neck, all sorts of problems can surface.
"We can see numbness and tingling. There can be neck discomfort and headaches," the chiropractor explained.
Debbie Fielders said she and her girls, Heather and Logan, have been under chiropractic care for five years, because of the constant stress on their spines.
"It's very stressful. I don't text, but for me it’s reading and we have neck problems," the mom said.
"My family, we catch each other if we have been sitting there like that," Heather added. "We know that we will mess up our necks and we tell each other not to do that for so long and to take a break."
Albanese said taking a break from that forward head posture can ease the stress. He also encouraged children and adults to keep their shoulders back and heads lifted. Wearing a headset can also help.
For many of his patients, Albanese recommended core exercises. Others will require spine adjustments. That's the technique he uses, even on his three children. The goal? To make adjustments to align the spine to get it back into a healthy position.
The very technology that got some people into this situation, can also be used to help. There are apps you can download on your smart phone that detect the angle you're holding your phone and an indicator will tell you to look up.