More People Complain of Neck Pain as Smartphone Dependence Rises

  • By Kim Chul-joong, Choi Won-woo

    October 21, 2016 13:18

    An increasing number of people are suffering from neck pain due to excessive use of smartphones.

    According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service on Wednesday, the number of patients who visited hospitals to treat neck pain soared by 16.6 percent from 2.27 million in 2011 to 2.65 million in 2015. Looking at cases of cervical herniated discs alone, the figure increased from 650,000 in 2009, when smartphones became popular, to 900,000 at present as the devices have become a daily necessity.

    The increase is particularly conspicuous among young people in their teens to 30s. Teenage neck patients grew 21.6 percent between 2011 and 2015. During the same period, the number of patients increased 19.7 percent among the 20-somethings, and 19 percent among those in their 30s.

    Do Jae-won, head of the Korean Spinal Neurosurgery Society, said the actual number of patients would be higher as young people tend not to see doctors despite feeling pain in the neck area.

    Smartphones and other smart devices are believed to be the main cause. Bending the neck for a prolonged period of time extends the ligament supporting the neck, and this can cause a herniated disc.

    Some 31.6 percent of teens, 24.2 percent of those in their 20s, and 14.5 percent of 30-somethings have been found to be overly dependent on smartphones. These age groups account for 62 percent of patients who suffer from forward head posture.

    Suh Dong-won, an orthopedist, warns against using smartphones while walking as it increases the chance of having a cervical slipped disc as well as an accident. Doctors advise sitting upright when using a smartphone with the eye level at no more than 15 degrees and stretching the neck frequently.

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