Yes, people are sprouting horns on their heads, but not necessarily because of smartphones

The bone might be growing to support the neck because we are constantly looking down at our phones.

One year ago, David Shahar and Mark Sayers published a paper in the journal Scientific Reports, connecting a protuberance in the skull to our overuse of mobile phones. But a year later, they have suddenly started making the news.

The study was very clear cut: Sayers and Shahar spoke about an enlarged external occipital protuberance (EEOP) which means that there is a bone in the neck of young people that is protruding. The research looked at X-rays and compared them based on sex, the degree of forward-head protraction and age of the subjects. They tested 1,200 people between the ages of 18-86.

They found that older males have a smaller bone than younger males which was a surprise because it is usually the opposite i.e. the older the male, the larger the size of his bone.

X-Rays showing the bone protrusion. Image credit: Scientific report

X-Rays showing the bone protrusion. Image credit: Scientific report

Then the researchers mentioned that the hypothesis that the EEOP is linked with the excessive use of mobile phones.

This is where the controversy starts…

On 13 June, BBC published an article ‘How modern life is transforming the human skeleton.’ They quoted Shahar, who was a clinician, saying that it was only in the last 20 years that he found this growth in his clientele. The reason is that there is stress on the spinal cord, neck and the surrounding muscles because people are constantly bending forwards and looking at their screens. The bone is forming to provide support.

An article in The Washington Post also spoke on the same lines. And so did Newsweek and NBC News.

However, other websites like Vice and The New York Times have refuted these claims. Their central message is – don’t worry, this is not actually true.

They have all said the same thing to prove that their point – the mobile phone has not been in use long enough for it to cause an evolutionary change in the human body.

Representational image . image credit: Pixabay

Representational image. Pixabay

The actual research paper very clearly states that it is a hypothesis which means that they have made an educated guess. Further studies are needed to be done to prove it. The New York Times article also pointed out that the data used in this study is from people who were already in pain and had visited a chiropractor. Hence this cannot mean that the rest of the population also has the same problem.

While everyone is focused on whether the bone protrusion is from excessive use of the phone or not, the main issue has somewhat been forgotten. They have found that the necks of these young patients have got a bend in them. This is caused by constantly looking down, at your phones, computers or just for work.

Dr Evan Johnson, assistant professor and director of physical therapy at New York-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital told New York Times that the bone is not that big of a deal but the fact that their X-rays are now showing these bents will mean arthritic changes in the neck or a misalignment in the neck, according to Dr David Langer, chairman of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital..

I guess what our grandmothers told us about better posture holds true, those back and neck aches will disappear in a jiffy if you just sit straight. Don’t you just hate it when they are constantly right?

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