In the 21st Century, modern technology has given rise to previously unknown ailments. And, scarily, all of us are at risk.
A whopping 5 billion people around the world use a mobile phone – that’s over two-thirds of the population – and the average internet user spends seven hours a day online.
But what harm is tech doing to us humans? Whether you’re suffering with painful thumbs, a niggling neck or aching eyes (or all of the above!), the “whodunnit” clues nearly always point to a new gadget or gizmo.
Here, we’ve picked out four of the most common modern-life injuries, their symptoms and how we can help put a stop to them…
When you look at your phone or laptop, chances are you’re not holding them at eye level. You’re likely in a hunched position which, over time, leads to poor posture, bone spurs, chronic pain, upper-back spasms, a pinched cervical nerve and early onset arthritis in the neck.
Looking down at your tech at a 60° angle can place up to 27kg of weight through the spine. Thankfully, the resulting hunch can be corrected through stretches and chiropractor visits, but it’ll take time. To save yourself the hassle, hold your phone like a T-Rex! Keep elbows to your sides, holding it higher, so you can read while keeping your head straight.
Computer vision syndrome
Our sensitive eyes aren’t made to stare at a single point for hours on end – and especially not a bright screen. Millions of us work in front of a computer or laptop for eight hours a day, which can cause eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred and even double vision. Luckily, computer vision syndrome isn’t permanent, but it’s vital we take care of our eyes.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, make sure your prescription is suitable for screen use. You might need bifocal lenses, or tinted glasses which filter out glare and reflective light. Most importantly, make sure you take plenty of breaks from your screen to give your eyes some respite.
If your thumbs are inflamed, swollen or painful at the end of the day, you’re probably suffering from texting thumb. It’s thought the average adult is running marathons with their thumbs each day – how exhausting – and just 1lb of pressure on our thumb tips is equivalent to about a stone on our thumb joint. This repetitive strain injury is your body’s way of urging you to stop texting and put down your phone.
To help your poor tendons recover, apply ice, take anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and try to limit your tech time. Doctors might recommend some stretches or, if you’re still in pain, a steroid injection. Give your thumb a break by using your index finger to type, or try voice recognition instead.
Phantom vibration syndrome
Do you ever feel your phone vibrate but when you go to look at it, there’s no notification? Experts think this bizarre phenomenon occurs because we’re worried about missing a call or text. It’s become a habit for us phone users to be hyper-aware of our phones’ sensation in our pocket – so much so that we mistake the tiniest muscle twitch for a call.
The strange condition dates back to the 1990s, before smartphones, when people experience “phantom pager syndrome”. You might hear some call the modern-day ailment “ringxiety”, too.
While phantom vibration syndrome might not be very bothersome, buzzing in your body is a clear sign of stress. You may need to step away from your phone!
A cut above
Not a gizmo, but a US study found that the now very trendy avocados caused about 8,900 A&E visits in a year – that’s 24 every day. But how on earth could a simple fruit give us so much pain?
There’s a knack to cutting an avocado, but the knife can slip through the flesh or off the stone and into your hand or fingers. You’ll get a nasty stab wound and, depending on how deep it is, it could be serious. A plaster or a few stitches might do the trick, but in severe cases the cut damages tendons, nerves or muscles and you’ll need hand surgery.
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