Are Humans Growing Horns?
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Andrew Oteo, D.C.
The recent media exposure of such technology injuries such as tech neck and video gamer’s thumb has shined a light on over-use injuries related to lifestyle. The most recent of such phenomenon was recently mentioned that humans (especially kids) were growing horns on the back of their skull as a result of over-utilization of smart phones and tablets. The question many have been asking themselves: is this fake news or is this why I have a bump in the back of my head?? I’ll start by breaking down 3 facts and then we can dissect further into this unicorn phenomenon.
Fact #1: Most mammals have a small bone bump in the back of their head. The technical term for this structure is the external occipital protuberance, but many refer to it as the wisdom bump or knot of knowledge. This is a completely normal finding with many variations…. Which also means some people having larger ‘wisdom bumps’ than others (no, this isn’t a direct reflection of IQ so don’t check your spouse after reading this).
Fact #2: The trapezius muscle and nuchal ligament attach to the bump in the back of our head. Every muscle in your body has a beginning and ending point that attaches to bone through an anchor point called a tendon. Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and thought ‘Do I really slouch that much?!?!’ The trapezius muscle is one of the most common areas of tension and stress that I find patients carry stress as a result of our daily postural habits.
Fact #3: When muscle groups are over-utilized or chronically shortened, this can result in excessive pulling on these anchor points. Over time, this creates a tug-of-war between the tendon and the bone. The tendon will stiffen and start to create scar tissue as a result of the added demand. The bone attachment point will begin to create more bone cells around the area to adapt to the stress. As a result, bone spurs can form around any area where the body needs added reinforcement. Most commonly, I observe these spurs in the heel as a result of plantar fasciitis or around the front of the bones in the spine. This is also typically a sign of osteoarthritis, or “wear & tear” on the body.
With all of these facts being stated, it makes perfect sense that it could potentially be possible to obtain more bone deposition on the back of the skull if we over-utilize the muscles and ligaments that attach to the area. Now let’s talk about reality. I have personally studied x-rays from thousands of individuals, from adolescents to elderly all with a variety of ‘screen-time’ and postural demands noted through daily life. The conclusion I have drawn from personal observation is that there is no direct linear correlation between poor posture and bone formation on the back of the skull. In fact, this is more of a matter of male vs female rather than upright vs slouching. Anatomically, males have more of a pronounced external occipital protuberance than females. This is in fact one of the structures that is closely observed in forensic science with determining the sex of human remains. Sorry to ‘bust your bump’, but our smart phones aren’t turning us into unicorns…..only hunchbacks!
Dr. Andrew Oteo
The Colony, Tx