The number of patients of cervical herniated disc, or slipped disc, has risen to 784,131 in 2011 from 573,912 in 2007, according to the National Health Insurance Corporation.
For all 100,000 patients, those in their 20s accounted for 7.6 percent, resulting in the highest rate of increase. The main cause was the use of smartphones.
The increase in number of slipped disc patients has also raised the amount spent on treatment from 115 billion won in 2007 to 186 billion won in 2011.
"The younger generation is spending much more time on their smartphones," explained Prof. Jang Ho-yeol of the Neurosurgery Department at the Ilsan Hospital. "The recent rise in patients in their 20s has a correlation with smartphones."
Cervical herniated disc occurs when the intervertebral disc slips out between the spine bones and presses against the nerves. When using smartphones, people have their head bowed, which strains the neck and causes herniated discs. In an upright position, the average human head weighs about ten pounds.
However, as the head tilts forward, the pressure on the vertebrae doubles. Therefore, looking at a smartphone with the head in a tilted position will strain the neck to what may feel like 20 or 30 pounds.
Rather than having to treat the slipped disc, it is more important to prevent it from happening. Sitting upright and keeping your head up helps to prevent slipped disc. It is also effective to exercise the muscles, joints and ligaments.