Five harmful effects of overusing technology and how to recharge.
These days it’s easy to overindulge in our phones, work computers, tablets, and living room TVs — we’re inundated with technology and all of its digital screens. While working from home, the ergonomic chairs and standing desks of the office might be swapped for the kitchen counter or the couch. But how harmful is our disheveled posture when engaging on our devices?
We spoke to leading health experts to understand the symptoms of excessive technology use, how to preempt them, and everything else you need to know.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
This ailment comes from pressure on the median nerve ending at your palm’s base, which is intersected by two bones to form the carpal tunnel.
Sometimes, when one of the bones is compressed — as a result of over-exertion, commonly from typing on a keyboard, constant texting, or clacking on gaming controllers — it puts pressure on the nerve and inflames the area. Regional inflammation causes carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, which include muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling.
But don’t stash away the game console just yet. Dr. Allie Davidson, of Hollon Family Chiropractic, suggests taking stretch breaks between prolonged dexterous activities. If you’re worried about the condition, visit your local chiropractic office. “Chiropractors will make sure your bones and wrist are in proper alignment to mitigate risk,” Davidson says.
At Home Remedy:
Take stretch breaks between prolonged dexterous activities.
DIGITAL EYE STRAIN
Extended screen time — including binging on smartphones, tablets, and e-readers — can lead to tired, itchy eyes (more so than typical allergies), blurry vision, light sensitivity, and headaches. This is because digital screens emit blue light, which is a short, supercharged blast of energy that can “penetrate its way to the retina,” says optician Ashton Bohrn, with Physicians Optical Services. Atrophied retinas can culminate in cataracts, glaucoma, and vision loss.
To repel against digital eye strain, Bohrn recommends following the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away,” she says. Blinking often will assuage eye dryness. If extended digital use is unavoidable, opt for a non-prescription pair of glasses with an anti-blue-light coating (TIJN Blue Light Blocking Glasses, $15.99) to keep your retinas safe.
“Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.”Ashton Bohrn
“Forward-head posture, where your head feels like it doubles in weight every inch your head protrudes, is an epidemic in the digital age impinged by backpacks, computers, and video games,” says Dr. Brent Berlener of Advanced Spinal Rejuvenation. The more the spine falls out of alignment, “the posture muscles basically go into a protective mechanism that will actually spasm,” he says. Inflammation on vessels and nerves can decrease oxygen flow by up to 30 percent.
Don’t try correcting this at home. If you have a query about your posture, Dr. Berlener suggests visiting your doctor for an ergonomics and postural assessment and a tailored, outcome-based treatment to rehabilitate and fortify tissue. “We want to make sure it’s the most efficient possible. We do sitting and standing X-rays in the office to see what your body’s posture is like under gravity,” he says.
TECHNOLOGY IN MOTION
Distracted driving is widespread in Missouri. In 2017, phones were the cause of 2,600 vehicular accidents, and in 2018, diversions like cell phones caused about 1,000 fatalities on the road, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
More technology, however, might be the panacea to safely using tech while in motion, driving, or strolling. Apple iOS and Android’s “Do Not Disturb” modes silence notification pings after tracking the phone’s traveling speed at over 15 mph. Drivers can pair their phones with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which syncs maps, messaging, and music to the dashboard, preventing eyes from drooping to the screen. Drivers and pedestrians can also install the Drivemode Dash app to sync directions, use voice controls, and use the talk-to-text feature.
At Home Remedy: Turn on do not disturb mode.
TECH NECK LINES
Over time, repetitively turning the head down—especially to view a device—can etch ring-like wrinkles into the neck, known as tech neck lines. While tech neck is inherently a cosmetic issue, it’s exacerbated by a screen’s blue light that causes pesky free radicals to absorb into the face and neck, which deteriorates skin cells and depletes collagen.
“We have lasers and peels that help with skin damage in the office, but your best protection is prevention,” says Brandi King, Genesis MedSpa aesthetic clinic coordinator. King recommends using SkinMedica’s Lumivive antioxidizing day and night serums (Day Damage Defense Serum and Night Revitalize Repair Complex, $265 combined) that recharge skin and its own natural ability to repair itself. The Pep Up Collagen Renewal Face & Neck Treatment by Colorscience ($159) can also help with its peptide hydrator that pumps in collagen, leaving the skin prettier, healthier, and more youthful.
At Home Remedy: Turn on a blue light filter.
Next time you’re inclined to watch an Ozark marathon slumped over your phone, try these (mostly at-home) remedies to relieve the aches and pains that come with spending too much time looking at blue-light emitting devices.
Your eyes — and your skin — will thank you for it.