Mobile devices can be a pain in the neck

The science backs it up — young people are getting hornier by the day.

It would seem that this is as good a time as any to point out that I occasionally find myself typing things that deserve a little bit more explanation than I offered the first time around. And, yes, this would be one of those times.

According to a June 20 article by the Washington Post, “New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments.”

The reason that young people are tilting their heads forward at such a significant rate that they are growing “hornlike” spikes at the back of their skulls? Go on. Take a guess.

If you guessed “mobile technology,” you win. We’d have also accepted, “cell phones,” “mobile phones” and “a burning need to read this particular column each week, at the beach, home or while stand-up paddleboarding.”

The addiction to mobile technology is obviously not unique to young people. Go to any restaurant in the area and you can see families of six sitting down at a meal, while six individuals of multiple generations are hunched over in their own little technological cocoons. It’s as if we are isolating ourselves from even the smallest threat of human interaction by building digital partitions around ourselves.

And, no, I’m not excluding myself from this new-day banality. I am constantly checking my email, keeping abreast of my fantasy football teams and clicking on “Breaking News” updates. I used to have a nasty habit of doing all this while driving down the road, but my wife’s constant naggi... um, helpful criticism, pushed me to break that dangerous pattern of behavior.

Now, let’s get back to this study again. Two researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, have written academic papers that suggest that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults is due to shifting body posture brought about by people bending their heads forward to read their screens.

It makes sense on the surface that there would be some ramifications due to this relatively-new activity in our lives. The human body has transformed and shifted over the years due to changes in our environments and lifestyles. We’re taller now. Frankly, we’re fatter now, too. With so much of our time and energies devoted to a tiny screen in the palm of our hands, it makes perfect sense that our bodies would adjust and morph somewhat, physiologically. 

The Post story also pointed out that health experts have been warning people of “text neck,” while doctors have been treating “texting thumb” — which is not a recognized medical condition yet, but appears to resemble carpal tunnel syndrome. 

“But prior research has not linked phone use to bone-deep changes in the body,” according to the Post.

The first paper by the Australian researchers was published in 2016, and cited 218 X-rays of subjects 18 to 30 years old. Those X-rays suggest that the abnormal bone growth can be found in 41 percent of young adults, and was more prevalent in men than women.

Another paper, published in 2018, used a sample of 1,200 X-rays of subjects ages 18 to 86. The researchers said that the size of the bone growth decreased with age, leading them to research what changes have come about in the past 10 to 20 years that could possibly impact the bone structure of so many young people.

Phones. Tablets. The birth of the Coastal Point. All reasonable assumptions. David Shahar, one of the researchers, suggested that the study does make sense.

“People are more sedentary; they put their head forward, to look at their devices. That requires an adaptive process to spread the load,” he explained. He suggested that people don’t have to throw away their mobile devices to save their health, but they do need to become more regimented with how they use their technology, and said that schools should emphasize posture strategies to young people.

It’s an interesting topic, and it will be equally-fascinating to see if the scientific and medical communities rally around these findings down the road, and how they will subsequently deal with young people becoming hornier by the day.

See? Now there’s context to that joke. Stick with me. Sometimes it just takes a while to get there.