Wednesday 18 September 2019

Tendonitis to eye strain - the everyday risks of using your smartphone

Repetitive action of using your thumb can lead to inflammation of the tendon. Photo posed
Repetitive action of using your thumb can lead to inflammation of the tendon. Photo posed

Joyce Fegan

From electrocution to death, our love of smartphones is fast becoming fatal.

But, on the lower side of the injury spectrum, these devices are now being linked to tension headaches, deterioration in eyesight and repetitive strain injuries.

Chartered physiotherapist Jenny Branigan said she has seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking her help for smartphone-related injuries.

"Our smartphone use negatively influences posture and may cause repetitive strain injury (RSI). People staring down at their phones for long periods are susceptible. Supporting the weight of your head increases tension and stiffness in the neck and upper spine. Symptoms include shoulder or neck pain, headaches, pain down your arm, or tingling and numbness in the hand," Ms Branigan told the Irish Independent.

To protect your neck and spine, Ms Branigan, owner of Total Physio, advises people to raise their phone rather than drop their head.

"Another increasingly common reason for seeking physiotherapy is thumb pain. The repetitive action of using your thumb to scroll through news or social media on your smartphone may cause inflammation of the tendon linings, which is known as tenosynovitis," explained Ms Branigan.

"Symptoms start as pain and stiffness around the thumb. If left untreated, pain may spread up the forearm and lead to weakness in the hand, and pain gripping or making a fist.

"Interestingly, we are also seeing this phenomenon in new mums who are spending more time on their smartphones during feeds, and who are already susceptible to post-natal thumb tenosynovitis," she added.

To reduce the chances of RSI, Ms Branigan advises to vary the hand you use for texting and to use your PC rather than your phone to compose long emails.

Meanwhile, the blue violet light emitted from smartphones can be hazardous to the back of our eyes.

Over exposure to this light can increase the risk of macular degeneration - a leading cause of blindness.

On the more extreme end of the spectrum, smartphones, while being used to take selfies, have been linked to several deaths.

Earlier this month a Japanese tourist died after apparently slipping on steps at India's Taj Mahal. An eyewitness said the man had reportedly been taking a selfie at the time of the incident.

And during the summer, Apple said it was investigating reports that a Chinese woman died after she was electrocuted while trying to make a call with her iPhone while it was charging.

Irish Independent

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