Doctors have noted a change in the shape of many millennials’ skulls: spikes are growing just above the neck, and researchers into the phenomenon blame it on too much cell phone use.
However, this apparently isn’t some bizarre radiation-induced mutation, but is instead the skeleton adapting to the bent-over posture phone users typically adopt.
An odd adaptation
Results of a study of the phenomenon done by David Shahar and Mark G. L. Sayers were published in the peer-reviewed Nature Research’s Scientific Reports.
The scientists were examining the growing prevalence on young adults skulls of enthesophytes — growths where tendons or ligaments attach. These typically become more common with age, but not a specific example at the base of the skull, a condition they call enlarged external occipital protuberance (EEOP).
These are more likely to show up in 18- to 30-year-olds than in people decades older. By examining X-rays, the pair found 41 percent of patients aged 18 to 30 had these skull horns.
These spikes are the skeleton’s way of dealing with strain on tendons or ligaments. The bone grows to expand the attachment area. And if the strain is on the back of the neck, the result is EEOP.
Shahar and Sayers believe there’s a specific cause for this condition. “We hypothesize EEOP may be linked to sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,” the researchers noted in their findings.
Blame it on ‘text neck’
When the head is carried normally, much of the weight is born by the spine. But when leaning over to look at a phone, the weight shifts to the back of the neck.
The difference between bending down to look at a phone and doing the same to read a book or magazine is likely how much time people now spend on their digital devices. A recent survey found that an average US adult spends 3 hours and 44 minutes on their phone or tablet every day. American’s primary source of entertainment used to be TV — a pastime not spent bent over — but it’s now in second place.
The resulting skull spurs from bad posture are not themselves dangerous. However, they are a “portent of something nasty going on elsewhere, a sign that the head and neck are not in the proper configuration,” Shahar told the Washington Post.