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Too Much Technology Could Lead To "Text Neck"

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Spending too much time on your smartphone, tablet, or computer can be a pain in the neck—literally.

It's actually dubbed "text neck." CBS4's Rhiannon Ally took a look at the health problems it's causing and how one can stop it from causing more serious health problems.

More than half of Americans own a smartphone. Also on the list are tablets and computers. All of these electronics could be behind a slew of health issues.

Rochelle Thibodeau keeps her phone nearby, even when she's working out.

"I had really bad upper neck pain and it would cause a lot of headaches. It would radiate down to my shoulders," Thibodeau said. "Social media is such a big part of our days now and we're on phone constantly."

New York Spinal Surgeon, Ken Hansraj, said he realized the likely culprit when talking to a patient.

"He told me he was playing 'Angry Birds' four hours a day on his iPad with his head down."

That is where the term "text neck" comes in.

"Text neck is overuse syndrome that involves the head, neck and back. From being hunched over mobile devices for extensive periods with poor posture," said Plantation-based Chiropractor, Dean Fishman.

The human head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Dr. Hansraj worked with a team engineers to put a weight value for how much stress is on your neck when your head is down. When it's tipped just 15-degrees, pressure jumps up to 27-pounds, when it's tipped 60-degrees—which is how most of us text—the weight jumps up to 60-pounds.

Fishman said those health problems can get progressively worse because it changes the curve of your spine. But, Fishman and Dr. Hansraj agree. You don't have to put away your phone just yet. But you do need to change your posture. "My message is simple. Keep your head up," said Hansraj.

Also, do exercises and stretches to strengthen your neck and back. Even moving your head side to side periodically throughout the day will help strengthen your neck.

Thibodeau has been working with a physical therapist at Dean Fishman's office for three months now and is noticing results.

"I can make it through day with less pain, My neck is hurting me less, less headaches which helps," Thibodeau said.

But it's easy to fall back into bad behavior. Fishman said that if we don't change our habits, "we will see an increase of spinal surgeries due to text neck."

Fishman also created an app. It is called the "Text Neck Indicator" and it is specifically designed to remind you not to hunch over. It's a real-time, interactive app that sits in the background of your phone and notifies you when you're holding the phone incorrectly. It's free on Android phones now. They hope to have it available for the iPhone soon.

Click here to watch Rhiannon Ally's report. 

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