Smart phones, tablets and watches – oh my! As the rate of technological advancement is ever quickening, and a new gadget seems to emerge and envelop the American psyche every few months, Americans continue to show signs of adverse health conditions related to the frequent use of tech devices. Two common health concerns include tech associated neck and back pain, and tech associated vision problems.
More and more Americans are using smart phones. A recent report from the Pew Research Center indicates that 64% of American adults now own a smart phone. That figure represents a dramatic increase from the 35% of American adults who reportedly owned a smart phone just four years ago.
Couple that with recent research by New York spine surgeon Kenneth K. Hansraj, which found that when an adult's head (which actually weighs on average ten to twelve pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward fifteen-degrees, the force placed on the neck surges to 27 pounds, 40 pounds of force at thirty-degrees, 49 pounds at forty-five-degrees, and a whopping 60 pounds at sixty-degrees. The same report also indicates that the average person spends two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading or texting on their smart phones and other tech devices. All of this adds up to significantly more neck and back pain for almost two-thirds of American adults.
There are a couple of things you can do to help prevent neck and back pain associated with smart phone use. First, you can do neck, shoulder and back exercises to help strengthen those muscle groups. You can also make a concerted effort to raise your phone up to eye level when reading texts or surfing the web. Utilizing talk-to-text applications and other hands free application when possible can also help; and, you may attempt to actually limit the number of hours you spend on your smart phone, tablet or other tech device.
Another emerging tech-related health problem involves eye health. USA Today has reported that digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, is becoming a widespread problem as more people spend hours a day looking at computers, smart phones, tablets, and other tech devices. In fact, almost 70% of American adults report experiencing some of the symptoms of digital eye strain, according to a survey conducted for the Vision Council. Additionally, approximately 60% of respondents said they spend at least six hours looking at tech screens daily. Some symptoms of digital eye strain can include: dry eyes, red and irritated eyes, eye fatigue, eyestrain, blurry vision, problems focusing, headaches, and even neck and shoulder pain.
There are several things you can do to treat digital eye strain. You can limit screen time and/or take frequent breaks, you can apply moisturizing solutions for eye dryness, you can train yourself to blink more often – and you can even install an extension to your web browser that reminds you to look away from the screen!
The Vision Council's medical advisory board also suggests the following tips to prevent or lessen digital eye strain:
- Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.
- Adjust the brightness of your tech device and consider changing your background color from bright white to cool gray.
- Adjust your screen so it is directly in front of your face and slightly below eye level. Try not to tilt a computer monitor.
- Position yourself and tech device so there is sufficient distance between your eyes and the screen.
- Decrease the level of light - overhead and surrounding - competing with your tech device's screen.
- Adjust your seat. Before using your computer, sit in your chair and extend your arms - your palm should rest comfortably on the monitor.
- Don't get too close. Keep hand-held tech devices a safe distance from your eyes and just below eye-level.
- Use the settings control on your tech device to increase text size to better define the content on your screen and make adjustments that feel comfortable to your eyes.
- Remind yourself to blink more often. Staring at a digital screen can affect the number of times you blink, causing eyes to dry.
Neck and back aches and pains, and vision problems, are just a couple of the possible tech related health issues emerging across the United States. If you have additional questions about tech related health problems you can ask your doctor during your next visit; or, you can put those tech devices to good use and take advantage of the convenience and expertise of telemedicine through MeMD.