It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry at some of the health problems afflicting our modern, tech-toting generation. From RSI injuries to increased anxiety from Dr Google, technology brings with it both convenience and consequence.
Here are five of the top tech-related health problems that doctors are treating in 2017:
1. Text Neck: Otherwise known as neck pain caused by looking down at your mobile phone, tablet or other wireless device, ‘Text Neck’ is not necessarily a new phenomenon (people have been looking down to read books for hundreds of years) – but modern-day technology has us looking down at our phones more frequently and for much longer periods of time.
The condition is concerning, as young children could be causing permanent damage to their developing cervical spines, something which could lead to lifelong damage and neck pain. Text Neck causes neck, back and shoulder pain, and if a cervical nerve becomes pinched, can lead to pain and neurological symptoms radiating down into an individual’s arm and hand.
The best treatment? Hold your phone at eye-level whenever possible, limit your phone usage, take regular breaks from your computer and adjust your workstation so that your computer sits at eye level with your head positioned squarely in line with your shoulders and spine. Or perhaps Text Neck is all part of nature’s plan, a natural devolution back to our hunched-back, neanderthal days…
2. E-mentia: Research shows that our reliance on modern technology is having a very real effect on our brains. Researchers scanned the brains of older adults who used GPS and compared the results to those who read maps. Map readers were found to have a higher amount of activity and a greater volume of grey matter in the hippocampus (the area of the brain associated with memory). Map readers also did better on a test for mild cognitive impairment, which often precedes Alzheimer’s. But its not just GPS causing us problems and slowing our brains. Research has shown that over-reliance on computer aids of all kinds can rob our brains of the stimulation they need to stay healthy. Research has shown that people who do not challenge themselves intellectually through learning are more likely to suffer from demential in later life.
3. Device-deafness: Listening to any sound at high volume (more than 89 decibels) for more than five hours a week can damage hearing permanently over time. Four out of five cases of deafness are caused by damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, which is often the result of too much noise. This damage is irreversible, as the hair cells don’t regenerate. With 39 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds tuning in at dangerously loud volumes, it seems our next generation are set to be hard of hearing. The solution? Try the 60/60 rule; make sure you’re at 60 per cent volume for no more than 60 minutes a day; this should preserve your hearing. Noise-cancelling headphones and those that sit over the entire ear are also a good investment.
4. Iphone insomnia: It can be tempting to use your phone as both a bed-time story and an alarm clock, but sleeping with your phone close to you can cause problems with your sleep quality and quantity. Sleeping with your phone close causes hyper-vigilance; subconsciously you’re expecting a call or text and this means your sleep will be lighter. Secondly, the light that your phone omits at night time causes insomnia by suppressing production of the sleepy hormone melatonin, which regulates your sleep and wake cycles. That last minute email check could take an extra hour or two from your sleep bank each night, so remember to put the phone away after 8pm – and pick up a book instead.
5. Cyber-condria: Over 60 percent of internet users turn to the internet to help diagnose aches, pains, itches and inklings. But relying on Dr Google is causing many of us cyberchondria – excessive health anxiety caused by online searches. If something is worrying you, why not use a real internet doctor and call Docto – that is one online opinion you can definitely trust.