We’re addicted to our cell phones and tablets, constantly texting and emailing. But our convenient modern technology comes with a number of health hazards, say Harvard University researchers. The most common is “text neck” a condition caused by staring at a device for too long at an unnatural angle which can lead to early wear-and-tear of the spine, degeneration and even surgery.
“It is an epidemic, or at the very least, very common,” sas Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their head down.”
The human head weighs about a dozen pounds, but as the neck bends forward the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is 27 pounds, at a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds and so on.
The fix: Hansraj suggests using your eyes, not your neck, to look down at the device. Exercise by moving your head from side to side several times and take frequent posture breaks.
But it’s not only the neck that gets hurt by our constant use of devices. Our hands and wrists bear the brunt as well.
“We get a number of patients who develop injuries from these activities,” notes Dr. Tamara Rozental, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand, wrist and elbow disorders at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard.
The repetitive motion of texting and typing can aggravate underlying osteoarthritis, says Rozental, leading to hand pain. Using your thumb too much to text can cause strain or overuse injury of the tendons that run from the wrist to the thumb. Pushing buttons too hard with your fingers can lead to inflammation of the tendons increasing your risk for developing stenosis that makes it more difficult for the fingers to bend or straighten.
While typing and texting won’t cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition of the wrist that affects the thumb and other fingers of the hand, it can make it worse. Also, when you lean too much on your elbows you can trigger nerve compression. The symptoms are pain, numbness and tingling of the thumb and fingers.
The solution to these unpleasant side effects is to take frequent breaks from your devices, say experts, and pay close attention to your posture. Use voice commands instead of typing when possible, says Rozental.
To ease carpal tunnel pain, set up your work station that your forearms are parallel to the floor, your wrists straight and in line with the forearms, and keep your elbows relaxed.
Using a wrist or hand splint may alleviate pain and pressure. And if needed, an occasional pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen can help.
© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.