Much of modern life today requires the use of a smartphone, tablet or app. Our thumbs and fingers are swiping and scrolling more then ever and we spend more and more time glancing down into our palms and laps at mobile devices. These modern devices and the positions, movements and postures we adopt to use them has seen an increase in certain types of injuries.
How technology might affect your physical health
Repetitive strain injuries to thumbs, fingers, hands, wrists and elbows – Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a general term used to describe pain felt in nerves, muscles and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Symptoms of RSI can range from mild to severe, often develop gradually and can include pain, aching ,stiffness, tingling, numbness, weakness and cramp. Cases of RSI have increased significantly as a result of prolonged repetitive actions. RSIs can be challenging to recover from as for a lot of people the continued use of a mouse, phone or keyboard cannot be easily avoided. In the future we may see a greater incidence of osteoarthritis of the thumb, wrist and finger joints and joint replacement may become more common place.
Neck injuries - Affectionately called “text neck” by some clinicians, this relates to the musculo-skeletal injury caused by holding your head/neck in a flexed position often for an extended period of time to use your device. Research has shown these positions can place up to 60 pounds of additional pressure on your neck and increase the incidence of muscular, ligamentous and even cervical disc injury.
It is likely that technology will eventually progress to the point where we no longer have to use our limbs to operate devices but until such a time we will have to manage the associated risks.
Here are a few suggestions as to what employers and employees can do to reduce the risk of suffering one of these injuries.
Homo sapiens have evolved slowly over time but technology can evolve in months and sometimes days. Put simply, we have not evolved quickly enough to cope with the demands that modern life and technology place on our bodies. It’s funny to think that perhaps our primitive ancestors, who had greater hand and finger dexterity as a result of their hunter/gathering might have been better equipped to deal with modern devices than us.