Technology – The Impact on our Health
As we spend more time sitting in slumped postures, using repeated small movements of our hands and forearms, pain can start in our necks, shoulders and arms or hands. There is concern about what long term effects technology will have particularly on children who will have a lifetime of technology use.
Research demonstrates that:
- Children with more than two hours screen time a day are 60 per cent more likely to have psychological problems – UK study 2015
- There is an increased incidence of back pain in kids aged 11 to 16 who use an iPad
- Eighty-four percent of people using technology, aged 18 to 24, experience back pain in a 12-month period, causing them to lose an average of 1.5 working days each per year- UK study 2015
- Seventy percent of regular computer users suffer from computer vision syndrome – burning, redness and dryness of the eyes – The American Optometric Association
- The incidence of lower back pain is higher in developed countries than in developing countries (who use less technology) – World Health Organisation
- Problems appear related to sustained postures, more repetitive movements and a loss of control over work scheduling – World Health Organisation
Neck pain and shoulder tightness relates to technology use:
In the past, holding a phone between your ear and shoulder was a major neck pain aggravator. More recently increased mobile phone use has changed the scope of the problem. As people spend two to four hours a day with their heads bent over reading or texting on their phone, this adds sustained strain to some neck tissues.
The strain is significant as our heads weigh 7kg. As our head drops, the strain on neck structures increases. The tissues seem to lengthen and lose their springiness with other deep core muscles becoming inactive. This is thought to cause uneven stress on the underlying discs, facet joints, and nerve tissues.
Excessive screen use can lead to dry irritated eyes, as we tend to blink less. Research on Long-term eye problems is not complete.
Research demonstrates that the biggest cause of preventable hearing loss is loud music. Headphones may put more pressure on the tiny hairs in the ear that transmit signals to the brain and may possibly contribute to heaing loss (World Health Organisation)
The busier and more fatigued we are at work, the more we slump with gravity. Our backs curl forwards bringing our your shoulders down and forward, which results in a forward over arched neck posture. Without good core stabilisation from your back and shoulder blades, arm use drags on your neck and may lead to shoulder tendon damage.
“As soon as you tie to keyboard to the screen like with a laptop, you’re basically forcing your eyes and hands to be in a similar position, which places demands on both” Mr Dripps APA explains.
Sitting for long periods can cause your hip flexers to tighten and your buttocks to weaken, leaving you with reduced mobility or stability which may lead to chronic lower back pain.
Osteoarthritic thumb joints are one of the commonest signs of hand disability. Will the next generation will have more of this painful and severely disabling problem?
If you have felt pain in your thumb while texting take it as a warning. Tendonitis occurs and the tendons become swollen, inflamed and degenerate. Repetition of a particular movement adds to the problem. Excessive compression or asymmetrical constant pressures may also worsen degenerative changes in the base of the thumb (OA) which leads to loss of grip strength.
Arm pain and nerve entrapments can also occur from typing on your phone or laptop due to repeated overstretch.
Research demonstrates that more upright posture can improve your confidence levels and actually increase serotonin and reduce cortical levels.
If you have pain due to using technology, seek early treatment to achieve better quality results.
Do not wait until you have severe pain or cannot work due to discomfort or headaches.
Contact Helen at In Touch Physiotherapy Subiaco now
How can I help myself reduce these problems?
Tips – for eye health
- Use the ‘20-20-20 rule’ to protect yourself.
- Stand up every 20 minutes, look into the distance for 20 seconds, and blink 20 times
- Adjust the screen height to suit
- Wear specific computer glasses not multi focals
Tips – for back and neck health
- Variety of posture is the key
- Use a standing desk for part of the day
- Maybe using a Fit Ball at your home desk
- Every 20 minutes get up and move
- Set the oven timer or your watch
- Stand every time you make a phone call
- Walk upstairs
- Physically move to message your colleagues rather than text or email.
- Never miss lunch – do a brisk walk around the block
- Arrange to meet someone for lunch so you have to walk and get away from your computer
- Get a dog – They never let you miss a walk!
Tips – for thumb health
Marcus Dripps, national president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, says, “Pick the device that’s right for the task, “to place less stress on your thumb tissues. If you’re planning to write a lot, use your computer and leave your phone for shorter conversations”.
If you have pain, seek a diagnosis from a physiotherapist, and use home ice and taping or brace support.
At In Touch Physiotherapy, I use a variety of very practical thumb braces to unload the painful tissues. This reduces aggravation and helps you keep active.
Tips – for hearing health
Use cushioned headphones and limit your listening time to 60 minutes a day at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume.
Tips – for posture health
There is no one “perfect” posture. Thinking tall through the back of your head while sitting upright on your sit bones (not slumped on your buttocks) should mean you are sitting more vertically. The neck lengthens , the shoulder blades sit back and down rather and your eyes are more horizontal
Tips – for emotional health
Step away from the screen to have a better chance of managing stress, mood swings, and self-confidence.
Move more, dance around the room to your favourite music.
Belong, Act, Commit.
Helen Potter in Touch Physiotherapy 2016