Ah the wonders of computers and smartphones. They make our lives easier, help us gain information quickly, and stay in touch. But, alas, they have their downsides too. The dreaded “tech neck” and “text thumb” are our new age maladies. Prior to computers and smartphones, these problems did not exist. They occur when we spend too much time using the computer or cell phone.
Tech neck and text thumb occur due to two reasons: over using certain joints, primarily the thumb in texting, or maintaining a static position for long periods of time as in flexing the neck while looking at the computer. Neck muscles become stiff. It’s the proverbial “crick” in the neck.
Both tech neck and text thumb can occur in anyone who uses electronic devices. Text thumb tends to be seen in the younger population. Tech neck is seen in anyone who spends excessive time looking down at the phone or computer. An example of how neck flexion looks from a pictorial perspective is shown at https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/ss/slideshow-neck-pain. It is possible for your neck to become permanently flexed. Flexion of the neck is a problem for many of us as part of the aging process. Add to that our use of electronics and we are adding insult to injury.
Workplace settings are notorious for causing strains of the neck, back, shoulders, wrists and eyes. When a worker has to sit in an awkward position to use a computer or any piece of equipment, that leads to strains. Typical work desks are a one size fits all. This forces the worker to adjust his/her position to accommodate the desk. It should be the other way around. Desk equipment should be adjustable to accommodate the worker’s size, reach, and visual needs.
It seems obvious but the number one way to control strains is to stop doing what is causing them. Easier said than done, you say. Most of us do not want to stop using our devices. If the problem is acute it is best to stop using devices temporarily. To help prevent the problem, take frequent breaks from using the phone or computer. Every 15 minutes stop using the device and go for a short walk and do some stretches. Make desk adjustments to prevent chronic neck flexion. You will feel more rested. Your neck, back, eyes and thumb will thank you.
Here are sites you can visit for details on neck and back stretches/exercises and desk adjustments: www.spine-health.com and www.webmd.com .
There are products that promote ergonomics with proper positioning of your devices. Some are flexible tablet stands that allow you to type while it grips the device. On a bigger scale are office desks which are adjustable for height and vision. There are many to choose from. You can Google “adjustable desk” to see a variety of options.
Electronic devices have changed our lives in so many ways. Make an effort to control the potential downside of using devices by being aware of the health consequences. It is better to take steps to prevent overuse problems than to be forced to stop using devices.