WMBF News Investigates: How technology could be ruining your hea - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

WMBF News Investigates: How technology could be ruining your health

(WMBF) - If at any point during the day you plan on looking at a computer screen, tablet, smartphone, or TV, your health could be in jeopardy. Doctors are warning your bodies are taking a beating the more you use these technologies.

In fact, according to a psychology professor, the average person uses the internet, mostly on a smartphone, one-and-a-half to two hours a day. If you don't take a serious look at how often you're using these technologies, you could be in for some serious pain down the line.

We text, type, tweet, browse, and zone out with our smartphones and tablets in hand.

If you're starting to feel some soreness in your thumbs and elbows, doctors say you should probably blame some of your techie habits.

Blackberry thumb

“The initial one that everyone always talked about was Blackberry Thumb,” says Dr. Robert Leak, a surgeon with Strand Orthopaedic Consultants.

Okay, so who has a Blackberry anymore?! But the pain is the same, whether it's a Blackberry or any other smartphone.

“If you use your thumb to do all your texting, eventually you're going to get tendonitis of the thumb and it's going to hurt. And when it hurts, it gets swollen, and then it gets stuck and it develops into this thing we call trigger thumb. And that's very common in people, in any type of activity really. But we're seeing it more now with people and mobile devices,” says Leak.

You may be a world-champion speed texter, but it's that same repetitive motion over and over and over that's going to trigger the soreness. And that goes for your elbows, too.

iPad elbow

“The iPad elbow again comes from people using their mobile devices, like their iPads, too long,” says Leak.

We surf the internet, read books, watch movies, play games, even work on our iPads. With your smartphones, you use them multiple times during a day at short intervals. But with iPads, we tend to use them for longer stretches of time. Meaning we're holding our elbows in awkward positions and leaning on them for too long.

“If you put a lot of pressure on your elbow, you'll rub on your nerve – your ulna nerve -- your funny bone nerve runs underneath your elbow. If you put a lot of pressure on your ulna nerve, you'll develop numbness in your hand,” says Leak.

Beyond that, you could get tendonitis, which would require surgery.

“What really happens is the tendon gets chronically swollen. And in tendonitis, the tendon get bigger and more inflamed than it should be. And if you stop doing what caused it, the tendon will shrink and go back to normal size and you won't have any problems. If it stays chronically swollen, then it needs surgery to fix it. That's the problem,” says Leak.

When you start to notice the pain and discomfort during everyday activities, that's when it's time to scale back on how long you use your tablet or smartphone.

Devices to keep tablets, smartphones at eye-level

There are devices you can get that could help with your tablet. You can attach a stand or use a case that sets it up on a table, more like a TV, at eye level. And there are apps available for your smartphone that can help relieve some of that stress. The app called Text Neck Indicator is available for Android smartphones. It will coach you to keep your smartphone at eye level and avoid text neck pain. Other apps available in the Apple app store can help with neck stretches throughout the day.

Local doctors say they are seeing more patients with weak necks and eyes and the severity of these health issues are hitting a lot younger than what they're used to seeing.

Text neck

“Currently everybody has a mobile device that they use, multiple times a day, for multiple hours a day. So people typically spend a lot of time with poor posture of their necks, looking down at their mobile device,” says Dr. Gene Massey, a surgeon with Strand Orthopaedic Consultants.

What that does is put a lot of strain your neck. The pain is commonly referred to as ‘Text Neck'. At a normal position with good posture, Massey says the force on your neck is anywhere from 10 to 13 pounds. But as soon as you start leaning forward into that texting position, you can be exerting over 60 pounds of pressure on your neck. The extreme wear and tear on those discs over time cannot be reversed.

“The key for things like this, for overuse injuries, is avoidance. So one of the things they recommend is when you're using your mobile device, you typically want to keep it at your eye level or kind of right below your eye level. Kind of at your mouth level. So you can keep your neck in a neutral position. To where you're not leaning down or leaning forward,” says Massey.

Weak eyes

Whether you're leaning forward looking at your smartphone, tablet, TV or computer screen, this constant exposure is also doing a number on your eyes.

“Blurry, it's usually blurry vision. A lot of times it'll feel like you're out of focus,” says Dr. Kelle Siegmund, an optometrist and owner of Siegmund Eye Care,

You work on your computer for eight hours a day, you check your smartphone intermittently throughout the day, then you come home and chill in front of the TV or your iPad. Every one of those devices is emanating what's called ‘blue light'. And according to Siegmund, that blue light can damage your eye. She predicts more patients will start suffering serious eye problems like cataracts in their 40's, which is something that is typically only seen when people hit their 60's.

“So there's blue-tech technology that is available now, anti-glare coating. So what that's supposed to do is filter out the light that you get from iPads and computers and to get it to reflect from going inside your eye through your retina and your pupils and actually to get it to reflect from the glasses off. So, and you want to incorporate that into sunglasses as well for people who don't need prescription glasses,” says Siegmund.

Doctors are still studying the damaging effects of blue light on patients' eyes. But cataracts, macular degeneration, and surgery are definite risks if you do not start protecting your eyes now.

So we know using technology too much can harm our bodies, but it may also be addicting.

Technology addiction

“Currently clinical psychologists don't actually recognize any type of internet addiction or technology addiction as an official diagnosis or disorder. However, that doesn't mean those things can't still be problematic in somebody's life,” says Emalee J.W. Quickel, Ph.D., with the Psychology Department at Coastal Carolina University.

According to Quickel, if your relationships, grades, or productivity is failing because of how much you use your technology, you may need to readjust.

“It's not about the device itself, or the internet itself. It's about what people get out of that process. The rewarding aspects of it. So do they feel more connected with people on the internet than they do in real life? Are they getting more social reinforcement that way,” says Quickel.

Then the trick is finding ways to build up real-life reinforcement to replace the excessive internet behavior, like limiting online chat in order to have a face-to-face conversation.

And that goes for kids as well. It's almost second-nature today for toddlers to use a tablet. Researchers recommend that for this to be healthy, kids should be limited to an hour and a half of screen time for the whole day. That way you can balance tech and social interaction.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly