Attacked By Tech!

Technology is designed to make our lives easier, but how aware are you of the hidden dangers?

From the common to the downright weird here’s our list of 8 technology related injuries to make you think (and wince!).

Swipers Thumb

Mobile phone user shopping online - Image by Hannes Edinger from Pixabay

This condition is caused by overuse of the muscles that extend the thumb when swiping a smartphone screen. This causes strain on the tendons of the thumb and irritation of the radial nerve.

It’s easy to avoid swipers thumb by swapping hands, taking a break from your phone and stretching the hands and wrists.

On average we spend about 2 hours per day on their phones. This level of activity, as well as potentially causing irritation, is also causing a general increase in thumb size! Thumbs are getting additional muscle strength and bulk to the digit.  This means we are seeing one thumb up to 15% bigger than the other!

The good news is that increasing use of voice recognition means that it’s unlikely we are going to end up with a generation of giant thumbed humans.

Computer Hunch

This condition is caused by poor posture when sitting at a desk top computer. This can lead to pain and stiffness in the upper back, neck and shoulders. However prolonged poor posture can lead to a much more severe problems called postural kyphosis. This where a curve in the upper back forms causing long term pain and problems.

So, we may be doing real damage to our spines by slouching over our devices all the time. According to a 2014 study, just looking down at a cell phone (or other gadget) puts the equivalent of 60 extra pounds on the head—greatly increasing pressure on the spine.

“As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees,” said researcher Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon, “40 pounds at 30 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.” Do this for hours at a time and you can see why your vertebrae would suffer. “These stresses,” Hansraj writes, “may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

To avoid computer hunch, make sure you sit up straight, and that your chair offers sufficient lumber support.  Your hands should fit comfortably on the keyboard, at a 90-degree angle from your arms. Also, make sure that your monitor is just slightly below eye level.

Try and take frequent breaks. Set an alarm if you need to, get out of your chair and move around. Studies have found that any type of exercise (aerobic, weight training, stretching, etc.) helps to prevent back pain so try to work in at least 30 minutes exercise a day. You might also consider trying a standing desk as this can really help offset the time you spend sitting. 

Mouse Wrist

Massaging an injured wrist - Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

Constant repetitive use of a computer mouse can over-use the muscles that extend the wrist. Not only affecting the tendon of the index finger but potentially the wrist and forearm too. This can lead to nerve irritation and repetitive strain injury.

Repetition, poor mouse selection and poor mouse positioning are all causes of mouse related wrist pain. Wrist pain (and swipers thumb) can both be categorised as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI’s).

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a serious RSI that may require surgery. CTS symptoms get progressively worse and include numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the thumb and fingers, particularly the index and middle fingers. Sufferers also find they have reduced gripping strength.

Rest helps but surgery may be required where the carpal ligament is cut. This kind of surgery is less common nowadays but still provides relief in some cases.

Using a ergonomic vertical mouse and a compact keyboard can help prevent Mouse Wrist. However regular breaks, and/or changing tasks regularly can be just as effective.

Standing Desk Ache

Remember we mentioned that a standing desk may help with computer hunch? Well that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods! People are just as good at poor posture when standing as they are whilst sitting.

Most people will put more weight through one leg than the other. These puts the pelvis in an unbalanced position and leads to muscles tightening more on one side of the pelvis causing pain.

Standing desks need to be used correctly to gain all of the benefits. The desk needs to be set at the correct height with the screen in the right position. Screens are often positioned too low. You still need to move frequently, standing still can cause problems and hard surfaces such as hardwood or concrete may not give enough.

Standing time is something you should increase gradually, and generally shouldn’t exceed 4 hours per day. Those 4 hours shouldn’t be continuous, you should alternate standing and sitting. And make sure your chair is good and your desk set up well whilst sitting so you don’t undo all the good you’ve done standing up!

Fit Bit Compulsive Disorder (FBCD)

FBCD is caused by doing too much activity too soon, to keep your fit bit happy without allowing your body time to adapt. So many people go from doing next to nothing to doing 10k steps a day. If you don’t allow your muscles time to recover, they tire out quicker and stay tighter for longer potentially leading to pains in areas of your body. Most commonly people develop problems with their knees, ankles and shins.

Eating disorder charities have also highlighted the dangers of tracker ‘obsession’ – where users become obsessed with doing a certain number of steps per day or burning a set number of calories.

There are dangers of over exercising and overriding our bodies natural cues in favour of the device. For example, you’ve taken a walk in the morning, and maybe a short one at lunch time. It’s late in the evening and you feel tired, your body is telling you it needs sleep. However, you notice you’ve not hit 10,000 steps and so you exercise anyway, ignoring what your body is telling you.

Whilst the odd incident may not have an impact the danger is over time you become reliant on the tracker to tell you you’ve done enough that day, and ‘unlearn’ your body’s natural signals.

It’s probably best just to stay in and use Nintendo Wii Sports………….

Nintendinitis and Wiiitis

Nintendo Wii Tennis

Orthopedic doctors are now accustomed to seeing a wide range of injuries that people inflict on themselves while playing games on Nintendo Wii.

While physically engaging games on Nintendo Wii can be healthy options in terms of getting people to exercise, they can also cause sport injuries.

Injuries that have been reported by people playing Wii games include head injuries, shoulder dislocations and bone fractures.

In medical literature, physicians call these injuries “Wiiitis” or “Nintendinitis.”

PlayStation palmar hidradenitis

This newly identified skin disorder named after the PlayStation is caused by holding the consoles controller for too tightly for a long time.

“PlayStation palmar hidradenitis,” or PlayStation rash, was first diagnosed in a 12-year-old girl in Switzerland. She had developed painful lesions on her palms and nowhere else on her body. After questioning, the doctors discovered that just before the lumps appeared, the girl had been playing a game on her PlayStation for several hours daily.

“The tight and continuous grasping of the hand-grips, together with repeated pushing of the buttons produce minor but continuous trauma to the (palm) surfaces,” Vincent Piguet and colleagues at University Hospitals and Medical School of Geneva reported in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2009.

A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd, the PlayStation’s maker, defended the product, saying the injury involved one person, while hundreds of millions of people use these devices.

“As with any leisure pursuit there are possible consequences of not following common sense, health advice and guidelines, as can be found within our instruction manuals,” a Sony spokesman said at the time.