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Posture warning for young smartphone and tablet users in HK

With one of the highest mobile penetration rates among all individuals in the world, it’s no wonder why over 67 percent of children and youngsters in Hong Kong have bad posture. We’ve all seen the “smartphone zombies” roaming around the streets and MTR, but do you know about the widespread ramifications caused by Hong Kong’s “head-down culture”?

According to an article by The Standard, the rise in the number of children and teens using smartphones and tablets for prolonged hours has led to a stark increase in the prevalence of posture-related problems in HK youth. Here, we investigate the negative effects of prolonged smartphone usage, and look at whether health insurance policies cover chiropractic treatments.

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Smartphone use among children and teens in HK

According to a report by the Department of Health, 80 percent of children and teenagers use smartphones on a regular basis. Of that figure, 50 percent use their smartphones less than one hour daily, and 30 percent use their smartphones between one to four hours daily.

Smartphone dependence is also a big issue in Hong Kong. Another study cited by Coconuts Hong Kong revealed that 60 percent of teenagers in the city-state are happy when they have their mobile devices with them, and 10 percent of teenagers can’t bear the thought of not using their phones – even if it’s just for one day!

The link between smartphone use and your posture

As reported by the Standard, nearly 66 percent of Hong Kong children under 16 years old suffer from hunchback (also known as kyphosis), a condition in which the spine in the upper back has excessive curvature. What’s more, 43 percent suffer from unequal shoulder height, and 24 percent from scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine).

Jacky Chan Yat-sang, honorary advisor of the Children Chiropractic Foundation, believes that this high prevalence in posture problems and spine conditions is largely due to the way children stare at their screens for prolonged periods of time, causing faulty posture such as forward neck or slouched posture. As people tend to sit with their head down when looking at their smartphone or tablet screen, the head-down posture also increases the stress on their neck. In fact, the weight on one’s neck increases to about 27 kilograms when the head is tilted down to 60 degrees.

An important thing to note here is that bad posture can exacerbate or increase your chances of developing a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including the aforementioned hunchback, unequal shoulder height, and scoliosis, as well as:

    • Tension neck syndrome: a condition that causes symptoms such as stiffness, inflammation, and pain in the neck region.
    • Rounded shoulders: mainly caused by slouching, rounded shoulders can lead to back pain and also tends to compress the diaphragm, leading to improper breathing.
    • Shoulder tendonitis: an inflammation injury to the tendons of your shoulder’s rotator cuff.

Smartphone ergonomics: how to avoid bad posture

Below are a few key tips for avoiding and eliminating the smartphone slump:

  • Hold your electronic devices at eye level – This may look funny, but it will help ensure that your neck and spine are aligned. It will also force you to use your phone for shorter periods of time.
  • Take advantage of the voice to text feature – Whether it’s Siri or an Android equivalent, using voice command to send messages, emails, and perform a whole host of other smartphone functions. It can take a little time to get used to, but your neck, shoulders, and back will thank you for it.
  • Keep the chin in – When jutting your chin out toward your phone or tablet, you’re also adding extra strain to your neck and shoulders. Try keeping your chin up and in.
  • Regular spinal and postural screenings – Many musculoskeletal conditions can go unnoticed without showing symptoms at the beginning, which is why it’s important to undergo regular screenings with a chiropractor.

Does health insurance cover chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care can be very expensive in Hong Kong, with a typical session costing around HKD 800 to HKD 1,600 for an initial visit. If you or your child require chiropractic treatment, it’s definitely worth checking your health insurance plan’s wording to see if it covers chiropractic care. Cover for this type of treatment is typically obtained as part of a health insurance policy’s outpatient benefits, and as such it will not usually be included under the inpatient portion of plans. Please note here that coverage of chiropractic care and other alternative medicine treatments often come with separate claims limits, which are typically lower than the other outpatient benefits in a policy (e.g. GP visits).

Got any more questions? Be sure to get in touch with the helpful insurance advisors at Pacific Prime Hong Kong today, who are standing by to answer all your questions, give you impartial advice, and offer you with a free quote!

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