Constantly looking down at your smartphone, tablet or gaming device can be harmful to the body. Over the past several years, doctors have been dealing with more and more cases of "text neck," which you and your children could be experiencing right now.

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"People are looking down towards their lap, and as they do, their neck actually rolls forward," said Dr. Steven Clark, a chiropractor in Nutley and former president of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors. "As that rolls forward, it starts straining the muscles, and those muscles just aren't prepared for that kind of long-term positioning."

"Text neck" has been seen in adults and youth. Symptoms include stiff necks, achy shoulders and headaches.

According to recent research published in the National Library of Medicine by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at the New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, people spend between two to four hours a day in a hunched-over position reading and sending text messages. For those who send texts often, that could add up to 1,400 hours a year.  In addition, children younger than 12 are being introduced to gaming devices and electronic readers that occasionally demand a hunched-over position.

"Over time, the body adapts to that habit," Clarke added.

Improper joint positioning could lead to arthritis,  After enough slumping forward, a person's muscles can shorten and tighten for the long-term. It can also lead to spine degeneration and in some cases surgery.

“The problem is really profound in young people,” Hansraj told The Washington Post in an article published on Nov. 20. “With this excessive stress in the neck, we might start seeing young people needing spine care."

But there are things that people can do help themselves.

Clark suggests that people take frequent breaks, don't stare down at the device for long periods of time and bring your head up and look straight ahead. In addition, he recommends stretching your hands and shoulders, as well as squeezing your shoulder blades together.

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