The Physical Risks of Your Screen Addiction

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(Photo: iStock)

Whether you're working, traveling, shopping, or relaxing at home, much of your time probably involves your smart phone. Our schedules revolve around these devices as they provide us with efficient ways to communicate and stay on track. Even the new “hugging face” emoji can't describe how much we love our hi-tech best friend.

But, with such love comes a cautionary tale of pain—literally. Researchers are discovering a growing number of physical risks tied to excessive use of our smart phones. For years, we’ve heard about the effects they have on our emotional well-being, and now that's accompanied by evidence that smart phones make it easy to fall into bad habits that affect our health.

Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smart phone, and chances are our attention is still on it even when it’s not ringing. From crouching in the dark, to typing novels of information, to staring at it for long periods while beating Candy Crush Saga levels, our body pays for each bad habit we form around our devices.

Text Claw

Identified by soreness and cramping radiating from the fingers, wrist, and forearm, text claw is the new arthritis of tech enthusiasts. Since gripping and holding our smart phones constricts our flexor tendons and the dexterity of our other fingers, motor activity can cause pain in the muscles and tendons of our hands and arms over time. Additionally, extreme texting might find some seeing a decrease in grip strength. It’s wise to repeatedly stretch, move your hands around, or utilize voice recognition to help with tasks.

iPosture

Because of our habitual head-down position while texting, we’re putting dangerous pressure on our spine. Remember that kid in Jerry Maguire who said the human head weighs eight pounds? Well, he was wrong—it’s actually 10 to 12 pounds, and we have to consider gravity on top of that number. Researchers discovered the further our neck bends forward and down, the greater the weight placed on the cervical spine. The extra weight could lead to early wear and tear, degeneration, and possible surgeries. To reduce the stress of this growing epidemic, keep your neck straight so your ears are directly above your shoulders and raise the phone.

Petextrians

You've seen the viral videos of someone texting while walking and falling straight into a pool or running into a pole. Happens all the time--and it’s funny, right? Wrong. More than half of the cases related to device mishaps while walking have led to serious injuries. Researchers discovered an uptick of distracted walkers in recent years due to advancing smartphone technology and growing social networks. To avoid injuries or worse, use good old logic and put the phone away until you’ve reached a safe spot. This goes for driving too--though it should go without saying, please don't text and drive, Womanistas.

Eyestrain

Any activity that involves an active use of eyesight is bound to cause eye fatigue—and staring at digital devices is a big one for so many of us. From irritated, dry eyes to headaches and fatigue, excessive use complete with straining and squinting can cause eye problems later in life, while presently decreasing daily productivity. For those seeking effective relief of eyestrain, take breaks during the day and don't be afraid to use eye drops.

Cyber Sickness

You know when you quickly scroll down your smart phone and suddenly feel nauseous? That’s “visually-induced motion sickness” and it’s kind of like the equivalent of brain freeze—except worse. The disruptive sensation occurs from a sensory conflict when you see an active motion, but don’t physically feel it. Because our sense of balance is different from other senses, when those sensory inputs don’t agree, that’s when we feel dizzy and nauseous. Though somewhat common in both men and women, studies prove women are more susceptible to cyber sickness, and this rings especially true for Womanistas who experience migraines.

Phantom Vibration Syndrome

This ailment is also fairly common but easily treatable. We’ve all felt our phones going off in our purse at one point or another only to discover it never buzzed. With so many users experiencing phantom vibrations on a regular basis, researchers suggest it mirrors a kind of compulsive behavior and could signal feelings of anxiety. To reduce false sensations and lower anxiety levels, step away from the phone by setting boundaries--or even going off the grid for a bit.