Weekly notifications pop up on my mobile device with the number of hours I spend working (browsing, reading, etc.) on my iPhone. Time that I spend both wisely and unwisely. Approximately 3 hours and 35 minutes a day on cellular devices (emarketer.com) and up to 11 hours a day are spent on screens (Nielson.com) in the U.S. After a review of the medical literature, it is important I share the top five ramifications of electronic device overuse:
- Texting thumb: This term usually refers to one of two conditions, either ‘trigger thumb” or “thumb arthritis,” according to Dr Matthew Nevitt MD, Baylor Scott and White Orthopedic hand specialist. Inflammation of the thumb joint and its tendons may be due to repeated rapid motions of the thumbs with texting and can be quite painful. “Trigger thumb” refers to constriction of the tendon in the thumb. A result of over use, there may be painful popping or locking of the joint. These orthopedic problems may require rest and splinting. In more severe cases, a steroid injection or surgical intervention for relief of discomfort may be necessary
- Occipital horn: Extended time spent hunched over electronic devices may cause small bone spurs on the back of the neck. Sadly, these bony changes are now seen in young people age 18 thru 25 according to the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. The occipital horns may not cause pain, but they are a symptom of stress on the neck. Over time, prolonged poor posture (neck flexion) could lead to neck arthritis promoting further spinal bony changes. Study authors believe the changes stem from early use of texting devices in childhood.
- Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS): Between 50% and 90% of people who work at a computer screen will report a range of eye strain and pain. Focusing and refocusing along with rapid eye movements needed to adjust to screen changes can promote blurred vision, double vision, and dry irritated eyes. Decrease the brightness, add a glare filter, and adjust the contrast to a more comfortable level. Keep your monitor slightly below eye level and work 20 to 28 inches from your face (WebMD).
- Sleep disturbance: The blue light emitted from the screens can delay the release of melatonin and therefore interfere with sleep. Teens’ sleep rhythms (circadian patterns) are vitally important to pubertal hormone development and brain maturity. Remove all screens from your children’s rooms at night and change the background screen thru your device settings: “Display and Brightness”.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving was found to be responsible for up to 68.3% of motor vehicle crashes according to the Virginal Tech Transportation Institute. Researchers suggest that the emergence of texting and browsing online is the single greatest factor accounting for the increased numbers of US motor vehicle accidents. Encourage your family to put the phone down and (far) away from reach while behind the wheel.
Bottom line: Get away from your mobile device as often as possible. Your hands and neck will feel better, you will sleep better, look better, and drive better. Good luck!