how technology may be harming you
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How Technology May be Harming You

Have you ever considered how technology may be harming you? A recent study found that Americans check their mobile phones an average of 344 times per day. That is once every four minutes! And that is just one of the many tech devices at our disposal. In this technological age, we have infinite amounts of information at our fingertips. From smartphones and tablets to laptops and video games, our devices do make life’s tasks more efficient.

We will look at common tech-related injuries and provide tips to prevent these conditions so you can use technology safely and comfortably.

How technology may be harming you

Tech injuries happen for several reasons.

Repetitive use of certain body parts–particularly the wrist, hand, and thumb–can lead to pain, stiffness, and other physical symptoms. How we sit, stand, or lie down when we are using devices also impacts our health. If you spend a lot of time looking down at a phone or laptop, you can stretch the tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the upper back and neck.

What Are Common Tech Injuries?

Spending hours every day slouched over our laptop or scrolling away on our cell phone can take a toll on our bodies–often in ways you might not expect. Here are some conditions that show how technology may be harming you.

Headaches

Staring at a screen all day may fatigue your eyes and lead to headaches. Poor posture while sitting may also irritate the neck muscles and joints that refer pain to the head.

Text Neck

It is necessary for the neck to move in all directions. Yet if you text often, use your phone for a prolonged time, or have a desk setup that is too low, you may be at risk for neck pain. These activities result in prolonged and excessive looking down, or cervical flexion. Holding the head in this position can put as much as 60 pounds of force on the spine.

Low Back Pain

Sitting or standing for a long time with poor posture is common with office or desk jobs. The abnormal forces through the spine can reduce the blood flow to your back which may irritate the discs, nerves, and muscles, causing pain in the lower back.

Selfie Elbow

Photo selfies may be the cause of your elbow pain. Excessive repetition of this outstretched position can irritate muscles and tendons in the forearm, similar to golfer’s or tennis elbow.

Gamer’s Thumb

Repetitive motion of the thumb associated with excessively playing video games, texting, scrolling on your phone can irritate the joints and ligaments. Prolonged wiping your screen can lead to strain of the tendons of the thumb and irritation of the radial nerve.

Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by swelling of the carpal tunnel passageway in the wrist which puts pressure on the median nerve. That pressure leads to pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the hand and forearm. People who type on a keyboard for work or play video games can develop carpal tunnel.

5 Tech Injury Prevention Tips

It may seem difficult to avoid these injuries if technology is an important part of your daily life. But the good news is, with mindful tech use, they can be managed and even prevented.

  1. Maintain Proper Posture: This is not easy to do at first because the muscles meant to hold your posture may be weak. Set alarms to remind yourself to get back into a good position. When seated, slide back into the chair so you are touching the backrest. Place shoulders down and back. Keep your device as close to eye level as possible. When standing, keep your back straight, shoulders down, and hold the phone up to prevent neck strain from looking down.
  2. Take Frequent Breaks: When you are immersed in your devices for work or entertainment, time can get away from you. Set reminders on your smartphone or watch to avoid staying in the same position for hours at a time. Every one or two hours, stand, stretch, or change your position to avoid prolonged unnecessary force on the body.
  3. Reconfigure Your Workspace: Whether you punch the clock in an office or work from home, a well-designed work area is important. Keep your computer and smart phone screens at eye level, your chair at a comfortable height, and your arm rests high enough to reach your elbows. Office chairs with adjustable arm and head rests take the strain off your arms and shoulders. Using a lumbar support can also help you avoid poor spine positions. If you have a standing option, routinely alternate between sitting and standing.
  4. Exercise Often: Frequent exercise provides the variety of movement your body needs, along with numerous other health benefits. Talk with your healthcare provider or physical therapist to find an exercise program that is safe for you. Having trouble working in exercise? Try walking at lunch, park in the back of the parking lot, use the stairs, or find a friend to keep you accountable.
  5. Schedule a Physical Therapy Screening: If you have pain, stiffness, numbness, or other signs of a tech injury, schedule a physical therapy screening to evaluate your symptoms and begin the path to relief. Physical therapy is highly-effective for decreasing pain, improving alignment, relaxing muscles, reducing pressure on the neurological system, and avoiding surgery for many health problems caused by technology.

Find a physical therapy clinic near you.

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