For years, Charles Youn, 29, suffered from upper-back pain and neck soreness that made him hunch his shoulders and caused him to wake up numerous times throughout every night. He was in pain and constantly fatigued, drinking too much coffee to combat the sluggishness.
“I learned to live with it,” says Youn, who works in development for leadership nonprofit Outward Bound and lives on the Upper East Side. “My upper back and neck would be so tight. My neck was always bent forward, and I just thought that’s how it was going to be.”
This past fall, Youn consulted with chiropractor Dr. Christian Kang, who has a practice in the Flatiron District and explained he was holding his problem in the palms of his hands: his laptop and iPhone were causing his pain.
Youn suffers from “tech neck,” or forward head syndrome, a painful, increasingly common condition caused by slumping over devices for hours a day that leads the neck to lose its natural curve — and triggers a physiological imbalance in the upper body. Previously seen in middle-aged-or-older desk jockeys and dentists who hunch over patients, it’s now materializing in younger generations who grew up with smart phones, tablets and other personal devices.
“Now, 20-year-olds have the spine health of a 30- or 40-year-old. It’s an epidemic,” says Kang.