Cell phone usage can lead to horns growing -- doctors say

We often see horned creatures in movies and children’s stories. They come in different guises, personalities, and backgrounds. Who would have forgotten Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of the Maleficent? What about the “scary” Sully from Monsters Inc? But horned creatures in real-life? Well, that’s new!


This bizarre “phenomenon” was observed by Dr. David Shahar and Dr. Mark Sayers from the University of Sunshine Coast in Australia. According to their research, horn-like spurs, or bone spurs, are growing at the lower part of the skull of developing adults. And the culprit: cell phone addiction.

(A,B) Images of a participant from Group A; (C,D) a participant from Group B. (B,D) An enlarged representation of the area surrounding and including the EEOP in (A,C), respectively. (B,D) These images include a measurement line indicating the origin, tip and length of the EEOP. 


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It’s been a year since Dr. Shahar and Dr. Sayers published their research in the journal Scientific Reports. But it was the BBC article last June that sent the online world into a frenzy.

The same BBC story revealed how technology is shaping the human physiology. Because of poor posture brought by excessive cell phone use, horn-like spikes are protruding at the occipital bone of the skull.

The researchers said that this is the body’s response in subduing the pressure caused by long hours spent hunched over your handheld devices.

In the study, over 400 adults aged 18-36 exhibited the growth of bone spurs in their occipital bone. These spurs usually appear on the edges of the bone due to an inflammation in the cartilage.

When there’s damage, the body repairs it through bone growth. Breakthrough from the research showed that repetitive motions can also lead to bone spurs. An example would be leaning your head forward when using your smartphones.

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Dr. Shahar and Dr. Sayers found that the bone spurs could grow from 10 to 31 millimeters. In some cases, people described that they feel a huge bump at the back of their heads.

There may be various reasons associated with this abnormality. For one, scientists hypothesized that too much phone use while bending your heads down can lead to this physiological change.

But, should you really be worried?

Having bone spurs does sound alarming. However, several studies have shown that these are generally harmless. Most are even painless and do not require intensive treatment. This may be why there wasn’t too much public attention to similar cases. That said, scientists warn that the spurs can be problematic once they become too big.

Health advocates are concerned that the young adult population is at high risk of having musculoskeletal disorders. This is because of their excessive use of handheld devices, which leads to poor posture habits. Consequently, this will result “to increase physical, social and financial burdens on individuals and societies”, Shahar and Sayers said.

Prevention is better than cure.

The best course of action in preventing the growth of bone spurs and associated musculoskeletal disorders is to maintain a good posture while using your handheld gadgets. According to Dr. Shahar, it will help if people will use specially contoured pillows to adjust their posture.

One can also do exercises that are focused on lifting the upper chest to improve posture. But probably the most logical solution is to decrease your screen time by disconnecting yourself from technology every now and then.