A leading Australian chiropractor has warned that 'text neck' - a condition often brought on by bending over phones and tablets for several hours at a time - is becoming an epidemic.
Dr James Carter, based in Niagara Park, on the NSW Central Coast, said the relatively new condition can lead to anxiety and depression as well as spinal damage.
He revealed he had seen an 'alarming increase' in the number of patients with the condition over the past few years and said 50 per cent of them are school-age teenagers.
'The condition is called 'text neck' because it is often caused when people sit with their heads dropped forward looking at their devices for several hours at a time.Research suggests that smartphones users spent an average of four hours a day staring at their device - resulting in up to 1,400 hours a year of excess stresses on the cervical spine.
'Instead of a normal forward curve, patients can be seen to have a backwards curve. It can be degenerative, often causing head, neck, shoulder and back pain.
'Many patients come in complaining they have a headache, but we actually find text neck is the cause of it. They often fail a simple heel-to-toe test and tend to fall over.'
Dr Carter, a former governor of the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, said the spine can shift by up to 4cm after repeated head tilts.
Still, he believes damage can be minimised for teenagers through regular exercise and a natural, 'healthy lifestyle'.
The condition can also result in emotional and behavioural changes as the stress can affect the release of 'happy hormones'.'It can also mean that happy hormones, such as Endorphins and Serotonin are not released, meaning people can wake up anxious.'
'Resting your chin on your chest to look at your phone stretches the spinal cord and brain stem. This can affect respiration, heart rate and blood pressure.
Dr Carter also advised avoiding using laptops or phones while sitting or lying in bed, raising monitors or devices to eye level and keeping your body moving.
U.S. doctor Dr Kenneth Hansraj has also raised awareness about the condition and said the weight on the neck increases when we look down at our phones.
He said that although our heads weigh between 10lb and 12lb, the weight on the neck can increase to 27lbs at a 15-degree angle and 60lb at 60 degrees.
Sammy Margo, from the UK's Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, also believes that 'text neck' is on the rise.
She said the condition can cause 'head pain, neck pain, arm pain and numbness'.
'When you drop your chin on to your chest for a long period you are stretching the whole structure,' she said.
'Eventually, in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, it could lead to serious consequences.'