Horns are growing in the skulls of the young. Use of telephone to blame, suggests research. – News – Wicked Local Fall River


New biomechanical research suggests that young people are developing horn-like spines on the back of their skulls – bone spurs caused by the frontal tilt of the head.

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live – as we read, work, communicate, shop and date. But we already know that.

What we still do not realize is how the tiny machines in front of us are reshaping our skeletons, possibly altering not only the behaviors we exhibit but also the bodies in which we live.

New biomechanical research suggests that young people are developing horn-like spines on the back of their skulls – bony spurs caused by the frontal tilt of the head, which shifts the weight of the spine to the muscles of the back of the head, causing growth bone tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer causing the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens in a callus in response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or a horn-like tip protruding from the skull just above the neck.

In academic work, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of bone growth in young adults points to the change in body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other portable devices are squirming the human form, requiring users to tilt their heads to understand what's happening on miniature screens.

The researchers said their discovery marks the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to the penetration of advanced technology in everyday life.

Health experts warn of the "text neck" and doctors have begun to treat the "text thumb", which is not a clearly defined condition, but bears resemblance to carpal tunnel syndrome. But previous research has not linked phone use to profound changes in the body.

"An important question is what does the future hold for the young adult populations in our study when the development of a degenerative process is evident at such an early stage in their lives?" Ask the authors in their most recent article, published in Scientific Reports, published by Nature Research. The study was published last year but received special attention following the publication last week of a BBC report that considers "how modern life is transforming the human skeleton."

Since then, unusual formations have captured the attention of the Australian media and have been dubbed "head horns", "phone bones", "thorns" or "strange bumps".

Each is an appropriate description, said David Shahar, the study's first author, a chiropractor who recently completed a PhD in biomechanics on the Sunshine Coast.

"It depends on anyone's imagination," he told The Washington Post. "You can say it looks like a bird's beak, a horn, a hook."

However, it is designated, Shahar said, the formation is a sign of a severe deformity in the posture that can cause chronic headaches and pain in the upper back and neck.

Part of what he drew attention to in his findings, he said, was the size of the bony spurs, which are believed to be large if measured 3 or 5 millimeters in length. A result was counted in your search only if it measured 10 millimeters, or about two-fifths of an inch.

The danger is not the horn itself, said Mark Sayers, associate professor of biomechanics on the Sunshine Coast, who acted as supervisor and co-author of Shahar. Instead, the training is a "portent of something unpleasant happening elsewhere, a sign that the head and neck are not in proper configuration," he told The Washington Post.

His work began about three years ago with a pile of X-rays in the neck of Queensland. The images captured part of the skull, including the area where the bony projections, called enthesophytes, form on the back of the head.

Unlike the conventional understanding of horn-like structures, which are thought to arise rarely and especially among older people suffering from prolonged stress, Shahar noted that they appeared prominently on X-rays of younger subjects, including those who did not have obvious symptoms .

The first article of the pair, published in the Journal of Anatomy in 2016, had a sample of 218 x-rays, from 18 to 30 years, to suggest that bone growth could be observed in 41% of young adults, much more than previously thought. The characteristic was more prevalent among men than among women.

The effect – known as an increased external occipital protuberance – used to be so unusual, Sayers said, one of his early observers at the end of the 19th century objected to his title, arguing that there was no real protrusion.

This is no longer the case.

Another article, published in Clinical Biomechanics in the spring of 2018, used a case study involving four teenagers to argue that head horns were not caused by genetic factors or inflammation, pointing to mechanical loading in the muscles of the skull and neck .

And the Scientific Reports article, published the previous month, expanded to consider a sample of 1,200 radiographs of individuals in Queensland, ages 18-86. The researchers found that the size of bone growth, present in 33% of the population, actually decreased with age. This finding was in stark contrast to the existing scientific understanding, which had long held that the slow, degenerative process occurred with aging.

They found that bone spurs were larger and more common among young people. To understand what was driving the effect, they looked for recent developments – circumstances in the past 10 or 20 years, changing the way young people hold their bodies.

"These formations take a long time to develop, so this means that those individuals who suffer from them have probably emphasized this area since childhood," Shahar explained.

The type of tension needed for the bone to seep into the tendon pointed him to portable devices that bring the head forward and down, requiring the use of muscles in the back of the skull to prevent the head from falling to the chest. "What happens to the technology?" he said. "People are more sedentary, they put their heads forward to look at their devices, which requires an adaptive process to spread the load."

The fact that bone growth develops over a long period of time suggests that sustained improvement of posture can prevent it and even eliminate its associated effects.

The answer is not necessarily delaying technology, Sayers said. At least there are less drastic interventions.

"What we need is coping mechanisms that reflect how technology has become important in our lives," he said.

Shahar is pressuring people to become as regimented about posture as they became about dental hygiene in the 1970s when personal care started to involve brushing and flossing every day. Schools should teach simple posture strategies, he said. Everyone who uses technology during the day should get used to recalibrating their posture at night.

As a motivation, he suggested that it reach the lower back of the skull. Those who have the horn feature probably can feel it.


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