About 6 months ago I was contacted by a reporter from the New York Times who had come across a blog post of mine. The article was about Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) and Forward Head Posture (FHP) in children from digital media use. I actually wrote the article after reading a USA Today story about how children were spending on average 53 hours per week engaging with digital media (TV, games, and computers).
The reporter wanted to know if there was any actual research to support the claims that chiropractors and medical clinics were making about an increase in adolescent back pain, neck pain, headaches, and RSI from increased digital media usage?
At the time I did not know of any. That is...up until now.
The amount of time teenagers spend in front of TV screens and monitors has been associated with physical complaints. A large study of more than 30,000 Nordic teenagers published in the open access journalBMC Public Health has shown that TV viewing, computer use and computer gaming (screen time) were consistently associated with back pain and recurrent headaches.
Torbjørn Torsheim, from the University of Bergen, Norway, worked with an international team of researchers to study the association between 'screen time' and head- or back-ache. He said, "A rising prevalence of physical complaints such as back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and headache has been reported for adolescent populations. Parallel to this, adolescents are spending an increasing amount of time on screen-based activities, such as TV, computer games, or other types of computer based entertainment".
My Take: As the father of a 5 year old daughter who loves to play on the computer I am concerned. I give her regular chiropractic adjustments, she uses a small cervical pillow...and I make sure she gets tons of exercise. Exercise is the key. And nutrition is important also.
The typical American diet is really high in processed foods, fats, and animal protein...all of which are pro-inflammatory. When you combine an pro-inflammatory diet, lack of exercise, and the stresses of sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen...you are going to get back pain, neck pain, headaches, RSI, and even CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome)...even in children
Just like adults get neck pain and headaches from staring at a computer screen for hours...so do children.
And the solutions are the same. Eat right. Get plenty of exercise. Maintain proper posture and spinal health (chiropractic can help). Take lots of breaks and stretch out. And use a cervical pillow (do not sleep on your stomach) and a good mattress. And drink plenty of clean water as lactic acid builds up in the muscles when they are in a static position for extended periods of time.
It sounds like a lot of stuff...but it really isn't...and it's really easy to apply when you know what to do.