NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) --All those hours you spend looking down at your smartphone really can start to take a toll on your body.
Health experts are warning people about “text neck,” saying smartphones may be responsible for pain and damage to people's necks and spines.
"When I look at my phone for a long time, the back of my neck will hurt for a bit if I'm looking down," college student Hunter Crumpler said.
Spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj found that bending the neck forward and down increases the weight on the cervical spine. His research showed that bending your neck at a 60-degree angle is like draping a 60-pound weight around your neck.
"That's hard to believe. Sixty pounds of weight just from looking down? I don't know, you got to show me a little proof on that one," student Gary Banks said.
Well, the proof is in science.
Virginia Beach chiropractor Dr. Tina DeGiorgio says it's not necessarily the weight that changes-- it's the center of gravity that changes, making it seem like it's heavier.
"When your head moves forward, it changes the center of gravity, therefore increasing the amount of pressure that's put on your spine," she said.
"You got to keep rolling your shoulders, and that doesn't do anything after awhile," college student Shelby Johnson said.
But it's not just the pain you should be worried about.
Dr. DeGiorgio says text neck doesn’t just make you sore. It can cause you to be more injury prone and permanently damage your spine, making you weaker, slower, less efficient and depressed.
"Your body starts producing different hormones that create -- could be fear, low self-esteem-- all the things-- characteristics you would see for somebody who walks like this. Low self-esteem is actually a big issue with people who do this too because they're not looking up, they're not looking around and having that confidence," she said.
Dr. DeGiorgio says the problem is growing, and her patients are getting younger and younger.
“You’re having 16, 17-year-old kids with the spine of a 70-year-old because of the degeneration and the constant pull on the spine. You do the most damage from late teenage to late 20's because after you're 20, 30, 40-years-old, you're just an accumulation of what you've done to yourself,” she explained.
The earlier you start taking steps to prevent text neck and treat it, the better.
Dr. Degiorgio recommends yoga, stretching, mobility exercises and epsom salt baths, which contain magnesium. Consult with a chiropractor about massage therapy and getting adjustments to your spine, and most importantly, just be aware.