The youngest generation is lining up to be in need for a major posture corrector with most on their phones 5 hours a day
Each generation tends to have its own unique set of issues related to the musculoskeletal system. For example, research published in the Journal of Clinical Imaging Science explains that older Americans — also commonly referred to as “baby boomers” — often have a higher rate of osteoporosis, thus also putting them at greater risk of osteoporotic fractures.
Alternatively, those who fall in the category of Generation Z, which is typically shortened to “Gen Z” and includes those born between the years 1995-2015, have their own set of issues. What unique postural concerns does this demographic present and, more importantly, what can you do as a doctor of chiropractic to help them resolve them? Arguably, one of the most notable is text neck.
Physiopedia explains that text neck is a term that has been coined by Dean L. Fishman, DC, as a way “to describe repeated stress injury and pain in the neck resulting from excessive watching or texting on hand held devices over a sustained period of time.” This is paramount to Gen Z specifically because some studies have found that they spend a great deal of time looking down at their mobile devices.
As an example, a 2018 study conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics found that a majority of individuals classified as Gen Z (55%) are on their smartphones for at least five hours a day. This is especially true for female Gen Z’s, with approximately 65% meeting this minimum 5-hour amount.
Worse yet, this study also found that more than one in 10 Gen Zs (12%) actually spend 15 hours a day or more on their mobile devices, compounding postural issues even further.
Physiopedia goes on to say that the amount of strain this constant usage of mobile devices puts on the neck varies based on the tilt of the user’s neck. For instance, if the user has a 15-degree neck tilt, the force on his or her neck is 27 pounds. Yet, if the neck is tilted 60 degrees, that force increases to 60 pounds.
Though the most obvious solution is to tell Gen Z patients to spend less time on mobile devices, this type of advice may just fall on deaf ears when it comes to this generation which has come to rely on the internet for a large portion of their interaction with the rest of the world. Therefore, more unique solutions are typically necessary.
Unique text neck solutions
If you can’t convince someone who is Gen Z to reduce or limit his or her time spent on mobile devices, another option is to teach them how to hold their smartphones in a way that eases the strain placed on the neck. This involves holding the phone up higher when texting, playing games, or watching videos in an effort to reduce neck tilt and, subsequently, reduce the force on the neck.
It is also helpful to give them a set of exercises they can do to reinforce proper posture. A few to include are seated rows, pull ups, and chest stretches. Performing these exercises regularly can help support a healthier alignment, even at times when mobile device usage is at its peak.
Recommending the use of certain orthotic devices as a posture corrector is also a consideration. Some orthotics can have a direct impact on a Gen Z’s health and wellness by reinforcing proper postural alignment via back or neck braces and mobilization devices. Others work by helping correct side issues that may potentially contribute to both current and future musculoskeletal pain.
As an example, a 2011 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology notes that roughly one in four adults (24%) struggle with some type of foot ailment. Additionally, reducing foot-related issues often involves wearing a specific type of footwear and/or wearing foot orthotics to help reduce joint loading, especially if a rheumatic condition is present.
Thus, wearing a posture corrector such as custom orthotics can help prevent issues that can essentially creep up the body, starting at the foot and working their way upward. Admittedly, this may not help reduce issues related to text neck directly, but it can provide other positive supports for the body in areas the Gen Z patient may be more willing to address.