If you've ever felt like you spend too much time on your smartphone and need an excuse to put it down, we've got the perfect story for you.
Researchers in Australia say they've made a bizarre discovery while examining hundreds of X-rays of skulls. About one-third of the X-rays they looked at, they found horn-like structures growing on the base of people's skulls and researchers say it's because of extended smartphone use.
The study, published last year in the journal Scientific Reports, found the bony growths on the skulls of around 400 adults aged 18 to 86. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the younger the subject, the larger the growths. Researchers described the horn-like protrusions as "prominent exostosis ... emanating from the external occipital proturbance" - fancy words for a bone spur at the base of the skull.
Bone spurs are common and generally form after repetitive motion damages the cartilage in between joints. The body attempts to repair that damage by growing more bone in the area. Researchers believe that the bone spurs they found formed after people repeatedly tilted their head forward, as if looking at a smartphone.
"The development of EEOP (Enlarged External Occipital Protuberance) may be attributed to, and explained by, the extensive use of screen-based activities by individuals of all ages, including children, and the associated poor posture. Musculoskeletal disorders related to poor posture while using computers and tablets have been investigated extensively and were identified as a risk factor for the development of related symptoms at the neck, shoulders and forearms," researchers wrote in the study.
Most bone spurs are not painful for people and do not generally require any treatment. However, they can become problematic if they reach a certain size.
The study's authors acknowledged that things such as genetic predisposition and inflammation also influence bone spur growth, but say their findings provide strong evidence that smartphones and poor posture are to blame.
"Our findings and the literature provide strong evidence that EEOP in the younger population is a result of increased mechanical load at the enthesis of the EOP, which is probably linked to sustained poor posture. We acknowledge factors such as genetic predisposition and inflammation influence enthesophyte growth. However, we hypothesise that the use of modern technologies and hand-held devices, may be primarily responsible for these postures and subsequent development of adaptive robust cranial features in our sample.
"An important question is what the future holds for the young adult populations in our study, when development of a degenerative process is evident in such an early stage of their lives?"
Photo: Scientific Reports