Be aware of potential risks, and take care of yourself!
Article by Stacie Hart, Human Resources / Recruitment Analyst
As we all know, use of screens and in particular, smartphones, is a part of our everyday lives. We text, read emails, follow links, and do other activities with our cellphones all day, every day. Medical experts have been warning us for years about frequent use of these technologies potentially causing conditions such as “texting thumb”, “text-neck”, and others. Some Australian researchers have even mentioned that young mobile-phone devotees may be developing horn-like spikes at the back of their skulls!
It’s important to be aware of medical issues which can result from the use of our beloved devices, and take precautions where we can.
Besides eye strain and sore necks, studies are uncovering real concerns about the effects of constant screen time. Recently, one-third of a group of 1,200 x-rays from subjects aged 18 to 30 indicated the presence of horn- or hook-like features protruding from their skulls. This may be attributable, experts concluded, to the forward tilt of the head during use of hand-held devices, leading to shifts in weight from the spine to muscles in the back of the head, in turn causing unexpected growth of bone in connecting ligaments and tendons. Another condition, “text neck syndrome” is pain in the neck, head, shoulders and back areas caused by downward-facing flexed posture while staring at one’s phone.
The term “texting thumb” (sometimes used interchangeably with the term “trigger thumb”) refers to carpal tunnel-type pain, cramping, and/or popping or snapping in the thumb and lower hand areas, while “computer vision syndrome” refers to eye pain and fatigue, blurred vision, red eyes and the need to blink very frequently. Some report experiencing “phantom vibration syndrome” or “ringxiety”, wherein we think our phones are ringing or vibrating, when in fact, they are not.
Besides the types of repetitive-action consequences listed above, there are real dangers of immediate injury caused by using our devices while moving – e.g. walking or driving. It’s not uncommon for people to fall on ice or from a crack in the sidewalk, and sustain cuts, bruises, concussions, and worse. Texting while driving a car or riding a bicycle carries obvious, and oftentimes even more serious, dangers.
Then there are the often-ignored implications of your phone collecting and harboring germs, viruses and bacteria.
So, since refraining from use of our devices is not an option – what can we do?
Experts suggest many of the problems can be minimized or alleviated by taking a few simple precautions: maintaining good posture without hunching and taking frequent breaks, to name a few. Other helpful measures include holding the device at eye level to relieve strain, performing stretching exercises to improve blood circulation, opening and closing your fingers, stretching wrists and forearms, adjusting your screen’s brightness and font size, avoiding glare and resting your eyes frequently. Using alcohol-based wipes made for electronics devices can be instrumental in the daily elimination of dust, germs, and viruses such as E. coli, which can latch onto your phone as a result of carrying it into the bathroom. If you must talk on the phone while driving, hands-free use is advisable (and even required by law in some states). Also, be mindful of Blue Light, which can disrupt your circadian rhythms, interfere with sleep patterns, and may even negatively contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Avoid screen time after dark to minimize Blue Light’s negative impacts to your body.
Uncited Author, 2019. 6 health issues that may be linked to smartphone use. ELEVEN MEDIA GROUP Co., Ltd.
Uncited Author, 2019. Can your Cell Phone be a Hazard to Your Health? Cleveland Clinic Newsroom.
Davis, Charles Patrick, MD/PhD, 2021. Smartphone Dangers: Could Your Cell Phone Be Bad for Your Health? OnHealth.
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