5 Ways Everyday Smartphone Habits Are Hurting Your Body
This article was originally published on Brit + Co. on March 9, 2018.
Written by Ashley Macey, freelance writer
There are many careers that have obvious injury risks like loggers, fishers, and aircraft pilots. In fact, these roles are some of the most dangerous occupations in America. But if you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that slouching over your computer day after day can also take a significant toll on your body. So, to better understand these injuries, we took a look at Imagine MD’s report that identifies the top tech-related ailments in America. Then, we followed up with Dr. Britton Frome and Senior Director of Customer Development Janelle Routhier and about how to prevent them. Whether you’re the HBIC at your office, or a freelancer on-the-go, below is all the info you should know.
Due to the constant tapping on our smartphones, many Americans struggle with thumb pain. In fact, thumb pain is surprisingly the most searched for technology-related injury, with an average of over 84,000 monthly searches. “The most common type of thumb pain is inflammation of the thumb basal joint or first CMC joint,” says orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of Go To Ortho, Dr. Britton Frome. “Overuse, instability, or previous injury can contribute to this problem. If a specific activity — like the use of a smartphone — is aggravating the problem, try using voice recognition instead of texting, and remember to take breaks from the activity. Splints and/or corticosteroid injection can help if the pain becomes severe.”
Because many tech users hold their arms at acute closed angles while using devices, many folks encounter severe elbow pain which can even sometimes result in a numbness or tingling sensation in the ring or pinky fingers. Why does this happen, you ask? “Flexed wrist or elbow positions will aggravate numbness and tingling due to increased pressure on the median and ulnar nerves,” says Dr. Frome. “It can also result in arm pain. Change patterns of hand use to reduce this type of pressure during the day. The use of wrist or elbow splints at night can also greatly relieve symptoms.”
Many Americans experience some form of neck pain, partly because we’re constantly hunched over looking at our phones or typing furiously at our computers. “Working at a computer all day can result in tension in the neck and shoulders, which causes pain. Be sure your workspace is comfortable and take periodic breaks to stretch. Engage in light exercise several times per week,” notes Dr. Frome. Because neck pain can also be quite serious, don’t hesitate to consult your physician if the pain worsens. “If the pain becomes severe or is associated with weakness, numbness, or tingling, it is time to consult with your doctor.”
Maintaining hunched, rounded shoulders while interacting with devices and touchscreens can often lead to sore and injured shoulders. “We all tend to sit hunched during the day, which can cause soreness in the upper back and shoulders. Exercises like yoga and stretching can help counteract these problems. If the problem becomes more serious, a referral to physical therapy can be helpful.” Check out these rotator cuff stretches and exercises that take less than five minutes and can do wonders to help prevent shoulder injuries.
Staring at computers and other devices for prolonged periods of time can put a serious strain on our eyes and cause side-effects like headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. To combat this, Senior Director of Customer Development, Janelle Routhier, give us some ideas. “You have six muscles that move each eye, and one muscle that focuses it. Overuse can certainly cause your eyes to fatigue, so if you’re going to concentrate on a screen for a long time, try the 20/20/20 rule. The goal is to take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, and look at something that’s at least 20 feet away. You might look out a window, for example, or across your office. To create this habit, set a reminder on your phone to take these regular breaks,” she says. If you’re serious about stopping eye pain from staring at screens, Routhier advises that there are lenses that filter harmful blue light that comes from both the sun and digital devices. “These types of lenses can really aid you to continue to see clearly and reduce the strain on your eyes,” she says.