Money Matters Archive

Pain? Blame Technology

 Ouch! It seems like aches and pains are constantly bothering us. They may come after that new boot camp workout (yeah, right), after sitting at the office all day, or may even be a sign that you are getting older—even if you are just entering your twenties. But, it is likely that your body is taking a beating from overuse of your many technological devices.

A decade ago, it was common to own a cell phone and maybe a laptop. Fast forward to 2011, individuals own smartphones, tablets, and laptops galore! And we’re wondering why our hands feel like we have premature arthritis and our backs only stop hurting when we’re unconscious.

Using all of these devices at home, work, and everywhere in between can produce everlasting problems that go beyond the occasional stiffness. Complications such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sight impairment, and constant soreness result from overusing your gadgets in the wrong way according to Cornell University ergonomics professor, Alan Hedge.

By conducting the same actions over and over again, the muscles and tendons we are using become inflamed, especially in the fingers, wrists, back, neck, and shoulders. Such actions like hunching over a computer screen, straining your eyes to see the far-away screen, scrolling with your thumbs and fingers on a smartphone, and slamming your fingers down on the screen of a tablet. All of these produce overuse injuries if not corrected before the problem becomes irreversible.

Some devices, however, are worse than others. Hedge says that touch screens are worse for your fingers than keyboards are because they lack the range of motion that the keys on a keyboard provide. Constantly scrolling on your blackberry or iPhone produces pain in your thumb—a digit that, unlike your other fingers, only has two bones. This problem has become so prominent that many users have been diagnosed with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, says Hedge, which produces pain on the thumb side of the wrist and affects your ability to grab things and turn your wrist. Ouch.

Since it seems that our love of collecting devices is only expanding, we must change the way we operate them. Carol Stuart-Buttle of Stuart-Buttle Ergonomics in Philadelphia urges everyone to make a few adjustments to ward away the aches. She advises sitting back in your chair, relaxing your arms when you type, placing your laptop screen at a close proximity so your don’t strain your eyes, using a keyboard when you need to type for longer periods of time and reserving tablet and smartphone typing for shorter spurts.

Lastly, step away from all of these devices! Although technology has enriched our lives in more ways than we can count, ongoing use without rest will make it a pain (literally) to play with your toys.

Source: New York Times. September 2011

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Pain? Blame Technology
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