While sitting at the beach the other day, a friend and I watched people of all ages (not just kids) bending over their phones and tablets for hours. Several other individuals spent several hours doing make-up and taking dozens of selfies. Along with the blatant narcissism and the total lack of appreciation for your surroundings, is all this technology hurting us physically?
They have already given names to the side effects of our severe addiction to electronics. Phrases such as “selfie elbow”, “text neck”, “Computer eyes” are just a few of the trending ailments that are being mentioned and looked up on searches in the US.
Dr. Alex Lickerman, a medical doctor who founded Imagine MD, did a study with Digital Third Coast and listed the top five tech ailments discovered through Google trends and translated them to actual medical diagnoses. We’ve reviewed them and added to some of his ideas on how to handle these symptoms.
.1. Texting thumb, gamer’s thumb or smartphone thumb.
This is when tendons in the thumb or at the base of the thumb become inflamed. It’s caused by repetitive use of the thumb when gripping phones or gaming devices. The symptoms are pain, swelling or a sticking sensation when the thumb is in motion.
Also known as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, the only way to cure it is to give it a rest.
2. Selfie elbow, cellphone elbow or numb pinky finger
Selfie elbow (or irritation of the ulnar nerve) is caused by holding arms up and bent for extended periods of time. Think holding up a tablet or phone toward your chest or face, or extending a phone in the air for a selfie. Symptoms generally include pain, weakness and numbness or tingling in the ring or pinky fingers.
Also known as cubital tunnel syndrome or ulnar tunnel syndrome. The fix is to “stop bending your elbows.” Prop up your tablet or phone instead of constantly holding it.
3. Text neck, tech neck or phone neck
Text neck is when poor posture and chronic neck pain develops from leaning toward, or over tech devices or scrunching a phone to your ear. This causes stress on the spine and surrounding muscles.
This can be avoided by being more conscious of your posture and sit up straight. The use of headphones can also be a big relief for the neck.
4. Computer eyes, eye fatigue or computer eye strain
Most devices have flashing, glare or contrast to deal with, a problem with long term use. Symptoms are headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain.
The formal diagnosis is computer vision syndrome. New screens are much easier on the eyes but glasses that remove the “blue light” and getting away from the screen periodically, tend to work the best.
5. Mouse shoulder, computer shoulder or gorilla arm syndrome
This ailment is when someone hunches or rounds their shoulders while using a tech device paired with repetitive use of a mouse or touch screen. Symptoms are tightness in neck and back muscles, chronic pain and inflammation.
The formal diagnosis is a repetitive strain injury. You need to adjust habits, find new ways to operate tech devices and take periodic breaks. Speaker phones, ergonomic furniture and headphones all help.
You’ll notice the biggest advice is to “give it a rest”. Put the tech stuff down. And go to the beach without it.
- Damasceno GM, Ferreira AS, Nogueira LAC, Reis FJJ, Andrade ICS, Meziat-Filho N. Text neck and neck pain in 18-21-year-old young adults. Eur Spine J. 2018 Jan 6; PubMed PMID: 29306972