TAMPA (FOX 13) - You see electronic devices everywhere. People walk, eat, and even drive while looking down at their phones, but almost all are unaware of the strain they are putting on their necks.
Staring at a smartphone for hours a day with your neck bent down at an odd angle leads to early wear and tear on the spine. Experts are calling it "text neck."
Dr. Alex Vacarro is a spine surgeon and president of the Rothman Institute. He says, thanks to our modern world and the reliance on smartphones, tablets and laptops, text neck has become an epidemic.
But since it's a recent phenomenon many people don't know why they have text neck.
"People have no idea it's related to their handheld device," Dr. Vaccaro said.
Erin Dowdell is a 28-year-old nurse who uses her phone several hours a day and sends countless text messages. She started experiencing neck pain a couple of months ago and it was so persistent she went to see Dr. Vacarro.
"He explained to me there's an epidemic called text neck which is from overuse of cell phones. I didn't think it was a real thing. I didn't take it too seriously but I thought about it and I thought about my posture and I realized it has to cause some kind of damage at some point," she explained.
Dr. Vacarro says the human head weighs about 12 pounds, and as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine increases.
"Looking down at a device is like having an 8-year-old hanging on your neck for two to three hours a day," he continued.
Adults spend an average of two to four hours a day hunched over their phones. That's 700 to 1,400 hours a year people are putting stress on their spines.
Using our phones is second nature and they aren't going anywhere, so it's important to know about the potential damage you can do just by staring at your phone.
Erin, who is now doing better, has this advice: "It's really important to educate people. You are causing harm to your body and you will be miserable if you don't take steps to prevent this."