During the past few years, our vocabulary has added several interesting ailments that point directly to the technology in our lives. We’ve seen “Nature Deficit Disorder,” a byproduct of screens and video games; “Fractured Attention Syndrome,” a byproduct of our fixation on screens and inability to handle the bombardment of information thrust upon us; and “Screen Eye,” a.k.a “fixed-eye syndrome,” in which we have trouble shifting our eyes quickly from one object to the other.
Using Google search and visit trends, two organizations — Imagine MD, a group of primary care physicians in Chicago, and Digital Third Coast — studied the most searched ailments on the Internet, and found many connected with the impact of technology. As first reported in USA Today, the study came up with five primary ailments, along with their very tech-savvy names:
- Texting thumb, gamer’s thumb, smartphone thumb: It’s been around since video games first splashed onto the scene in the early 1980s. The thumb tendon becomes inflamed from overuse, and it’s either rested — or gets worse.
- Selfie elbow, cellphone elbow, numb pinky finger: Didn’t we used to know this as tennis elbow? It’s essentially the same thing. It involves too much pressure on the ulnar nerve, the same nerve that gives us a jolt when we hit our “funny bone”. The cure? Stop bending our elbows, by using propped-up tablets or phones.
- Text neck, tech neck, phone neck: This is all about the poor posture we adopt when using our devices. Walk around your office, and observe your teams and colleagues working. In all likelihood, their posture is hunched and pinched. Pushing colorful labels aside, this can become serious if we don’t regularly rotate and stretch our necks and shoulders. The solution: keep our necks in a neutral position, with good posture.
- Computer eyes, eye fatigue, computer eye strain, a.k.a computer vision syndrome: During the past 15 years, optometry and ophthalmology have boomed around the world. The growth in treatment is exponential. According to a 2017 study by Harris Williams Company, the industry has grown to $38 billion — up from $12 billion in 2000. Between 2012 and 2020, the number of practicing ophthalmologists is predicted to rise from 18,000 to 24,000. The solution to our increasing eye woes? Break away from the computer, and spend time in nature or simply sleep and close our eyes more.
- Mouse shoulder, gorilla arm syndrome, computer shoulder: Also known as repetitive strain injury, this occurs from hunching or rounding the shoulders while working on the computer or device or playing hours of video games. It can lead to tightness in the shoulders and back, and chronic back and neck pain.
It is estimated by PWC that more than 30 percent of our colleagues, employees or team members suffer from one or more of the above device-driven ailments — a number that continues to rise. While the labels are somewhat humorous, their impacts on our productivity and health are not. Working out, walking, being in nature, playing board games and reading print books are all welcome remedies. So is simply limiting how much we use our devices.
By Robert Yehling