Technology has transformed our lives in many ways: the way we work, live and interact. It has allowed progress in education, entertainment, communication and health. These advances have great potential and benefits. However, they also have implications for health not only from a psychological point of view but also a physical one.
How to look at your mobile properly to avoid back injuries
Spending a lot of time glued to a screen and hooked on a keyboard, mouse or controller, whatever it is, can lead to an increase in physical problems. The thumb to send text messages on the mobile, the elbow to take selfies or the neck when we are in front of the computer are some of the parts of the body that suffer the most musculoskeletal injuries due to excessive use of technology.
Repetitive strain injuries
The main problems that “techno-sedentarism” has brought us could be summarized with what is known as repetitive stress injury (RSI, in its English acronym). This term is used to describe pain that appears in the muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse in areas such as forearms and elbows, wrists and hands and neck and shoulders. In most cases it usually appears, in addition to pain, tingling, numbness, swelling or loss of flexibility of the affected area.
1. Carpal tunnel syndrome
This is a common problem that affects normal hand function and is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. It appears especially when this nerve becomes inflamed by subjecting it to repetitive movements, such as typing on a keyboard or sending text messages. Pain, burning sensation in the middle and index fingers, or numbness of the thumb and fingers usually occurs.
2. Mouse shoulder
This term has been used to describe a specific problem arising from excessive computer use. It is estimated that approximately 75% of jobs already depend on a computer. This greatly contributes to neck and shoulder discomfort in people who spend many hours in front of the computer.
The pain is described in most cases as a kind of burning that occurs on one side of the neck and extends to the shoulder. It is associated with repeated or prolonged use of the mouse in a non-ergonomic position.
3. Neck pain
The way we use mobile devices and computers is often not right. Incorrect posture can, over time, lead to musculoskeletal problems, especially since we tend to adopt a downward and forward posture, which means we are hunched forward and looking down. This puts unnecessary pressure on the neck and spine.
4. Thumb injuries
Excessive use of mobile devices can cause repetitive strain injuries to the fingers and wrists. According to a study by Nielsen, the data analysis company, a teenager can send an average of 3,339 text messages per month.
Another study, conducted by Ofcom, warns that 77% of adolescents between 12 and 15 years old spend time with video games for about twelve hours a week. If we add these two data together, the result is a lot of work for something as small as the thumb.
5. ‘Wiitis’ or ‘Nintendinitis’
Although video games in which the player has to be physically active are healthier options than those that can be done sitting, they can also cause certain types of injuries. Some of these include head problems or shoulder dislocations.
In 2014, British Medical Journal made a compilation of 38 articles on diseases and traumas that video games can cause, including “wiitis” and “nymphs”. Excessive play with traditional controllers is associated with tendonitis of the thumb, palmar ulceration, musculoskeletal problems, and various trauma.
Experts acknowledge, however, that most of the problems described are mild and, considering the number of games sold, the prevalence is low. To avoid problems they recommend taking frequent breaks, not moving the controller too hard and being careful where you play.
How to prevent these digital ailments
The fact that many injuries are the direct result of certain jobs can make them difficult to avoid. In some cases, prevention is as simple as:
- Take frequent breaks to stretch the body and eliminate tension: stretching and strengthening exercises are some of the measures that will help us avoid further injuries and return the body to its normal function.
- Create a work space ergonomic: have the computer at eye level so that the neck remains in a neutral position and make sure that the chair is at the correct height so as not to hunch over the desk. Maintaining a proper posture while using the devices will help us reduce discomfort. Plus, investing in an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and mouse will help us in the long run.
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