How to Prevent Health Problems from Overuse of Modern Technology
It is useful to ensure that the room is adequately lit by daylight and artificial light, that you do not look at the display in the dark and that the display is sufficiently backlit.
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Many people spend a significant part of their day using various modern technologies – computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, overuse of these can cause health problems. What types of problems are most common and which are among the most serious? For example, painful or burning eyes. This is due to dry and irritated eyes, as we blink much less when looking at screens. Headaches, neck and back pain, tendon strain in the wrists and fingers, sleep problems leading to chronic fatigue, a decline in overall performance and concentration, and possibly the development of depression are common. Some typical health problems have even been named with specific terminology, such as mouse wrist, mobile elbow, tablet shoulder or text neck. The overuse of modern technology can also be accompanied by irregular diet, often made up of inappropriate foods, as lack of sleep and fatigue lead to a tendency towards unhealthy food. Another consequence is a lack of active exercise, which leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, hyperlipidaemia and, potentially, the development of metabolic syndrome, which is also fuelled by sleep deprivation.
Can you advise on how health problems associated with the use of modern technology can be prevented? First of all, is there any way to protect eyesight, or at least to successfully reduce the negative impact of electronic devices on the eyes? It is useful to ensure that the room is adequately lit by daylight and artificial light, not to look at the display in the dark, to adjust the display backlight sufficiently, to limit the time spent looking at the display and to take regular breaks when working. It is helpful to learn to blink consciously or to use “artificial tears”, which can be purchased as drops from any pharmacy.
What warning symptoms should people be aware of in relation to their eyesight and in which cases would you definitely recommend a visit to an eye specialist? People should definitely pay attention if they are bothered by itchy and stinging eyes, the need to blink, redness and pain in the eyes, pressure behind the eyes or blurred vision. An eye examination to rule out a more serious condition is particularly advisable if the symptoms described are only in one eye, persist after the eyes have been “rested” from viewing the display or lead to visual impairment.
Within the musculoskeletal system, the overuse of modern technology causes a wide range of problems. You have mentioned, for example, mouse wrist, mobile elbow, tablet shoulder and text neck. Is there effective prevention against these? The use of ergonomic aids, such as a suitable chair and the correct desk setup, mouse and keyboard pads to protect the tendons in the wrists, and the so-called “wrist pads”, are certainly useful for prevention. For example, a vertical mouse, etc., as well as the aforementioned adjustment of the display backlight, the correct posture and position of the body when using the device (bed, couch vs. chair, desk, keyboard). For example, an occupational physician or other experts in ergonomics of the working environment can advise on the optimal ergonomic aids and the correct settings.
What diagnostic options do personal physicians at Health+ have when a client complains of specific musculoskeletal pain? What is the usual procedure and how does the first phase of the diagnostic examination work, if applicable? When a client presents to a personal physician's office with a musculoskeletal pain condition, the first stage of the examination is to determine whether the condition is acute or chronic. Through a detailed interview with the client and a clinical examination, we always try to find the triggering cause of the pain. To refine the diagnosis, we perform laboratory tests to determine inflammatory activity and to identify other possible causes such as metabolic, autoimmune or rheumatic diseases. In terms of imaging, we have the ability to perform x-rays or schedule the client for computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Can we return briefly to mouse wrist? What are its symptoms and can medicine cure it? Mouse wrist is a term for tingling or pain in the wrist or fingers of the hands and a weakening of fine motor skills caused by nerve compression in the wrist. It is actually carpal tunnel syndrome. The pain typically manifests itself at rest and at night. Mouse wrist can be prevented or treated in the early stages, especially with the right aids and sitting at a computer. A gel pad in front of the keyboard and a gel pad under the mouse are beneficial to maintain a balanced position of the hand on the wrist without oppressing the nerves. Another solution is physiotherapy, ultrasound treatment, and in extreme cases, surgery.
Mobile elbow sounds similar to tennis elbow. How does this problem arise, how does it manifest itself and what are today's therapy options? Mobile elbow is indeed another name for tennis elbow, i.e. inflammation of the tendons in the elbow area. It manifests as a sharp pain localized in the elbow area, shooting towards the fingers or shoulder. It initially arises, for example, after prolonged phone or tablet work, when the arm is tensed. This leads to insufficient blood supply and oxygenation of the forearm muscles and the accumulation of lactate in the muscles, which gradually leads to inflammation. In more severe cases, pain occurs even with normal movements, for example, when lifting a cup. Therapy options are quite wide, the choice of treatment usually depends on the severity of the condition. Sometimes rest is helpful enough, physiotherapy is very effective, various physical therapy options such as ultrasound, electrotherapy, magnetotherapy and other therapeutic methods can also be used, and in extreme cases surgery may be required.
What are the symptoms of tablet shoulder and how can it complicate people's lives? How is it treated? Tablet shoulder can be described as a feeling of tension, pressure and pain in the shoulder during certain movements, typically when raising the arm above the horizontal. We therefore notice it when dressing or brushing our hair, for example. It may be muscle congestion, nerve compression or traction in the shoulder area. The basis of treatment is physiotherapy, exercises to relax the shoulder.
And finally, text neck – what image does that bring to mind? Does it really arise from excessive texting, or can it have other causes? What are the manifestations and treatments? We refer to a specific posture as "texting neck". It arises from prolonged poor posture, for example, when texting, but also from other prolonged use of tablets and mobile phones, typically when sitting with the device in the lap. This causes the head to tilt forward, the neck to bend and the shoulders and back to hunch, leading to neck and back pain. Stiff neck muscles can also cause headaches, pressure in the eyes, dizziness or feeling the need to vomit. The basis of treatment is physiotherapy. The most important things are correct posture in an upright position, holding the device at a sufficient distance from the eyes (about 30 cm), limiting the time of use of the device, using a stand and placing the device on a table for watching longer videos, but also including more frequent breaks in viewing.
Are there other similar musculoskeletal health problems that you have not mentioned that are associated with the overuse of modern technology? Back pain, mostly carried over from prolonged sitting and bad posture, is a common one. Ergonomic seating and aids, breaks from PC work (at least every 2 hours) help to solve these problems. A higher risk is posed by "leisure activities" such as gaming and social networking, where "time passes more quickly"...
What should people generally do if they are experiencing the above symptoms associated with "digital sickness"? See a GP or head straight to a rehabilitation doctor or physiotherapist? It is important to be aware of the health problem, the amount of time and how to spend it with digital technologies, the suitability of the environment and the aids. If one notices some of the described symptoms, it is advisable to consult a general practitioner who will recommend a specialist and follow-up procedure.
How should people adjust the conditions of their workspace, whether in the workplace or at home in the home office, to prevent the development of problems? What should they pay attention to? In particular, appropriate aids such as an ergonomic chair and the correct positioning of the chair and desk so that the back is straight and the head is upright, the elbows are level with the desk, the knees and hips should always be at a 90° angle, and smaller people should use a footrest. The aforementioned gel pads under the keyboard and mouse are useful for aligning the wrists, adjusting the height and backlighting of the monitor; it is recommended to work on a PC rather than on a mobile phone; for mobile phones or tablets, a stand and connecting an external keyboard is useful. Of course, reducing the time spent using modern technology and taking frequent breaks at least every two hours is beneficial.
And how should people adapt their approach to technology in their leisure time so that it does not harm their health? In addition to the optimization of positioning and gadgets described above, it is advisable to minimize the time spent with technology, because time spent with a PC, tablet or mobile phone in leisure time takes away from our ability to use this time with family or friends and social activities. Shared activities, whether sporting, exploratory, cultural or "just" spent playing socially will enrich our physical and mental state and family relationships more than the individualistic "shell" of modern technology. These technologies were invented and constructed precisely to facilitate our work, to give us more leisure time, and we should remember that today.
Another area where technology has a very negative impact is sleep, because the blue light emitted by electronic devices affects the quality of sleep. Can you advise on prevention? Blue light is emitted by the displays of modern technology, televisions, computers, tablets and mobile phones. People who use them just before bedtime sleep less well, are more likely to be obese, suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression. Blue light interferes with the brain's production of a hormone called melatonin, which is naturally released at dusk and prepares the body for proper sleep, quality deep sleep, and controls our internal biological clock, which governs many of the body's physiological processes. It is therefore advisable to keep the use of display devices to a minimum in the run-up to bedtime, or to avoid them altogether for a few hours before bedtime.
In this context, can you remind us of the principles of good sleep hygiene? The principles of sleep hygiene are certain rules or a set of advice that help us to retread the path to falling asleep better and getting better quality sleep. Some of the most important ones include not eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, eating light dinners, not snacking, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, which interfere with the quality of deep REM sleep and also cause us to wake up earlier in the morning. If we do not have to, it is advisable to postpone work until the next day. It is also not advisable to play intense sports or browse social networks before sleep, as such activities tend to stimulate the brain and delay sleep. In preparation for sleep, it is advisable to rest, go for a light walk, read or listen to music, meditate or talk with family. The evening ritual should include a hot shower or bath followed by a body lotion to relax the body. We can add herbal tea, such as lemon balm or a soothing blend of lavender and hops. Soothing herbs can be part of a body cream, scented oil or infused in a pillow placed on the bedside table. It is advisable to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even at the weekend; weekend bedtimes lead to difficulty falling asleep on Sunday night and getting up on Monday. Having a "bedtime alarm" to remind us that it’s time for the evening ritual and the journey to bed will help with regularity.