By Sarah Sekula, published on Florida Hospital’s blog
Chances are you’re hunched over your smartphone, tablet or laptop to read this. And, your tech savviness could be leading to a host of new problems.
That’s right, if you’re suffering from muscle pain in your neck, shoulders or lower back, chances are you’ve contracted one of a new generation of injuries. Below, medical specialists from Florida Hospital discuss common conditions frequent users endure.
Chetan Patel, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon
“Text neck represents a problem with posture. When you look down for a long period of time at the phone screen, you can develop neck pain, especially if the phone is in your lap. Your head weighs a significant amount, and you naturally put your neck at a bad angle when texting. So your neck is out of alignment. If you do that for a long time, you can cause pain.
If you have to be on the phone for a long time, take a break. Text with the phone on top of the desk instead of it in your lap. If it’s on your desk, it’s easier on your neck. If you put your forearms on the desk, your neck will be even happier.
When kids are gaming with handheld devices, they can have the same trouble. They should bring their necks closer to neutral alignment. Instead of sitting in a chair, have them sit against the wall and bend their hips and knees, so their arms won’t get tired.
Icing the neck or taking anti-inflammatories can be helpful. Physical therapy and doing neck-strengthening exercises at home can also help.”
Rebecca Kurzon, MD, Ophthalmologist
“Dry eye can result from too much screen time because there is a decreased blink rate as a person stares intently at a screen. The solution is to take frequent breaks and to use lubricating drops if needed.
Eye strain is primarily related to people over 40 trying to read tiny screens on electronic devices without using reading glasses. This causes asthenopia, or eye strain, caused by uncorrected presbyopia (gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects) and can lead to headaches. The solution is simple: put on the readers.
Distraction related to electronic devices leads to eye injuries, caused by people falling or running into things while attempting to walk or even drive while staring at a screen. The solution is to sit down while operating all electronic devices.”
It’s also a good idea to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something 20 feet away and rest your eyes for at least 20 seconds to help prevent eye strain.
Blackberry® Thumb Injuries
Joseph E. Robison, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon
“Phones are not ergonomic devices. They are either too big or too small for our hands and aren’t designed to be used for long periods of time. Frequent texters can develop what is called overuse syndrome of the thumbs, sometimes called BlackBerry® thumb, that’s a generalized inflammation of the tendons that drive the thumb. And that can be painful.
Over a long period of time, the symptoms can become chronic. Even if you totally stop the activity, your body might be at a point where it cannot heal itself and the symptoms will continue.
Try using the voice-to-text feature for more extensive responsive to emails or long text messages, take anti-inflammatories and modify the use of the device. If you must text, whenever possible, type with the phone placed on a table and not when you’re holding it to lessen tension and stress. Your thumbs and fingers will thank you.”