"Tech Neck" - a medical issue that could be affecting the daily lives of your teens

Dr. Amanda Austin showing scans of Carilynes neck. (Image: WTVC)

It's a medical issue that could be affecting your teenagers' everyday lives.

As people of all ages spend more time sucked into their electronic devices, doctors say their spines could be suffering.

The problem is being called "Tech Neck."

One 13-year-old Chattanooga girl has been seeing the chiropractor for close to four weeks, complaining of neck pain.

Carilyne Wyke says it started when she noticed her neck was sore just by her looking down... and it only got worse as time went on.

She says she'd much rather be playing basketball or hanging out with friends and family, but instead she's trying to fix her "Tech Neck" problem.

Carilyne says her mother insisted they take a trip to the chiropractor's office.

"When they started complaining about their neck and back pain, I was like 'headed to the chiropractor,'" says Victoria Wyke.

Dr. Amanda Austin with Tri-State Clinic North describes the problem as "looking down, texting, gaming, computer work, even reading books in this (looking down at hands) position reverses that curve in that neck."

"For every inch the head is forward, 10 pounds of pressure is added to the spine, causing it to form incorrectly," says Dr. Austin.

Dr. Amanda Austin says the reality of "Tech Neck" is showing up in more places than just an x-ray.

"They call it an epidemic. It's affecting kids not just with pain, and now they're relating it to depression, and blood pressure."

Dr. Austin explains that it's important to relieve pressure off of the spinal chord, and that they're all connected in some way. "We're dealing with not just arm and leg function here. As far as eyes, ears, nose throat, heart lungs - all these things are controlled by your brain and spinal cord."

One recent study found teens spend an average of 9 hours a day using media.

And Dr. Austin sees the consequences in most of her patients' x-rays.

On the contrary, one spinal surgeon at Erlanger Hospital says there hasn't been enough studies done to provide a name such as "Tech Neck" to patients experiencing neck and back pain.

Dr. Venkat Ganapathy is cautious about assuming that looking down at a screen is the reason for someone's neck and back pain.

"It may have other implications. My concern is with this controversial issue. I just don't want people to start getting high cost, low value tests for no apparent reason," says Dr. Ganapathy.

Dr. Ganapathy says all possibilities need to be considered before jumping to conclusions.

"Studies show that the biggest predictor to get wear and tear on their neck is genetics number one and number two is aging factor," says Dr. Ganapathy.

So what can you do if think you may have "Tech Neck"?

Doctors say while sitting down, always try to sit in an upright position with shoulders back, hold or position all electronic devices or books at eye level, and limit time spent looking down at devices for a short amount of time.

"Look straight for me. I got you, no worries," says Dr. Austin instructing Carilyne.

For now, Carilyne will continue to see Dr. Austin with hopes she can correct any reversal of the curve in her spine.

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