You may have read the recent article in The Washington Post about horns forming on the heads of Australian adolescents from chronic smartphone use. Other media outlets have picked up this story and run with it. After all, what gets clicks like an article about humans growing horns?
Not surprisingly, the truth is much less sensational. In reality, researchers found bony growths on the heads of some of the subjects, but few people would call these abnormalities “horns.” First of all, the growths were located at the base of the skull, rather than on the forehead or the crown of the head. When you think of horns, it’s doubtful that you’d place them in this area.
Secondly, these growths are extremely small. The average size was less than one-third of a centimetre. Most patients would not detect a growth of that size on their own without an x-ray, and the growths are certainly not long enough to protrude through the skin.
What are the Growths?
Now that we know that people who frequently use smartphones and other devices aren’t in danger of resembling goats, what are these tiny protrusions at the base of the skull? The human skull is far from smooth. There are bumps, depressions, and curvatures throughout. At the back of the skull is the external occipital protuberance (EOP). The EOP serves as an attachment point for several neck muscles and spinal ligaments.
It is completely normal to have an EOP, but this tiny bump can be totally undetectable, especially in women. Since men are generally more muscular and have larger skeletal structures, their EOPs tend to be more prominent.
In the study, the authors found that some people have enlarged EOPs. While the authors attributed this enlargement to the frequent use of mobile devices, they did not correlate mobile device use to EOP enlargement. However, it is reasonable to hypothesize that leaning over a mobile device for hours on end can lead to enlargement of your EOP as bony areas tend to “thicken” when subjected to repeated stress over time.
The Facts about Text Neck
Although spending loads of time on mobile devices is unlikely to cause you to grow horns, this habit can be responsible for another problem – text neck. Text neck is a syndrome caused by hunching or leaning over for long periods of time. The symptoms include headaches and pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
As text neck progresses, you may experience numbness, tingling, and discomfort in your arms down to your fingers. It is important that you visit your chiropractor at the first sign of significant discomfort and certainly if your symptoms begin to worsen. Your chiropractor can offer treatments to relieve the symptoms. More importantly, they can show you techniques to improve your posture and avoid future problems.