Pain in the neck

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET

CHIL­DREN as young as 10 have spinal de­for­mi­ties caused by pro­longed use of hand­held de­vices, ac­cord­ing to an Auck­land chi­ro­prac­tor.

Mar­garet Bryce has been prac­tis­ing for the past 25 years and is deeply con­cerned at an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing to her with straight­en­ing of the neck curve, or cer­vi­cal kypho­sis.

‘‘When I was first in prac­tise I only ever saw straight­ened out necks in peo­ple who were aca­demics or who had head-down type jobs like seam­stresses or of­fice work­ers. Now, over the years, I’ve seen this in­tense shift to straight­ened out necks in younger and younger peo­ple.’’

The cer­vi­cal ver­te­brae in the neck should have a smooth curve which arches for­ward.

The curve is de­vel­oped among in­fants dur­ing ‘‘tummy time’’ when they are placed on their stom­achs and nat­u­rally prac­tise lift­ing their heads.

The curve is im­per­a­tive for flex­i­bil­ity, shock ab­sorp­tion and strength of the spine.

The straight­en­ing out of this curve can in­ter­fere with the 17 tril­lion mes­sages that pass through the spinal col­umn per minute, Dr Bryce says.

The Block­house Bay chi­ro­prac­tor puts the change down to the high preva­lence of hand­held elec­tronic de­vices such as cell­phones and gam­ing ma­chines.

‘‘It used to be that head­down time was only dur­ing school time. Now, it seems to be all the time,’’ she says.

‘‘I think it’s quite a prob­lem, be­cause what that means to your health is you start in­ter­fer­ing with those 17 tril­lion mes­sages.’’

Dr Bryce has treated a 10-year-old who came to her be­cause she was un­able throw a ball in a straight line.

X-rays re­vealed the child’s neck ver­te­brae were straight­ened.

‘‘When try­ing to send mes­sages from the brain to the arms and vice-versa, that co­or­di­na­tion isn’t there. She can’t throw straight, she just can’t make her­self,’’ Dr Bryce says. ‘‘It makes me very sad.’’ Pain is rarely a prob­lem for younger peo­ple but it can be­come an is­sue in later life.

Dr Bryce says par­ents should en­cour­age their chil­dren to take reg­u­lar breaks from elec­tronic de­vices.

‘‘They need to stop, they need to go out­side and get their heads look­ing up rather than look­ing down.’’

She sug­gests set­ting a timer for 20 min­utes and then get­ting the child to stand up.

‘‘If peo­ple think their child’s head is for­ward and the shoul­ders are rounded, more likely than not it’s a prob­lem in the neck curve,’’ she says.

‘‘If they can’t get their head up they should con­sider see­ing a chi­ro­prac­tor.’’

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Mod­ern prob­lem: Chi­ro­prac­tor Mar­garet Bryce has seen a con­cern­ing in­crease in straight­ened out neck curves over her 25-year ca­reer.

Curved: An ex­am­ple of a healthy neck curve in a 25-year-old pa­tient.

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