New Delhi: Excessive use of electronic gadgets has led to a rise in cases of hunched backs among youngsters, health experts have said.
They said the problem initially begins as a mild case of bad posture when the children are comparatively young, but slowly begins to develop into hunched back and shoulders.
"It all starts with a bad posture due to spending more time on small digital screens. The more they get addicted to the gadgets the more the children are comfortable in the bad position," said Dr Arvind G. Kulkarni, head of Spine Scoliosis and Disc Replacement Centre at the Bombay Hospital in Mumbai.
Hunched back is a medical condition of exaggerated curving of the upper back. Typically, head and shoulders shift forward, the chest curls inwards and the spine crunches from a healthy 'S' curve to a less healthy 'C' position as the pelvis tilts forward.
"Though associated with old age, hunchback is a condition commonly seen among the youngsters these days, especially those between 9-18 years old. The main cause is weak abdominal muscles from years of sitting in a hunched position. This places uneven pressure on the discs, the cushioning pads between the bones of the lower back, causing them to become compressed and painful," said Kulkarni.
Hyperkyphosis or excessive curvature of thoracic spine is more common among hunchbacks if not treated on time.
"Many people with hyperkyphosis suffer from shortness of breath and other breathing issues. It may also cause anxiety and depression, increased risk of cardiovascular or lung disease and Type 2 diabetes," said Kulkarni.
Talking about the treatment, orthopaedician Ronit Singh of Safdarjung hospital said: "With children and youth, it's important that they learn the correct way to sit, especially when using computers, mobile phones and tablets."
"For the youth and the elderly, exercises like stretching etc often help improve the spine flexibility. Youngsters can emphasise on strengthening abdominal muscles as it helps improve posture. Practicing yoga is considered beneficial for good body posture. Yoga also helps in improving balance; strengthening the core muscles and helping you maintain a proper body alignment," he said.
He said that surgical procedures are recommended and done only if the spine curvature is exaggerated and if it is pinching the spinal cord or the nerve roots.
"Surgery helps in reducing hunchback curvature. The most common procedure is spinal fusion where two or more affected vertebrae are permanently connected. Understanding the importance of good posture at a very early age is essential to maintain a healthy mind and body," he said.