HEALTH AND SAFETY
Bad posture and overuse of smartphones and other
devices can cause unexpected health problems.
A recent British study of smartphone use showed that
young adults checked their smartphones 85 times a day
and used them for a total of five hours of use per day.
The long-term effects of such constant smartphone use
are not yet known but, if current studies and reports
by the medical profession are any indication of the
future, it would be advisable for all users to consider
the impact smartphones and similar devices can have
on their health.
In the Short Term
Text neck: a neck strain resulting from hunching over
smartphones, tablets, or laptops for prolonged periods.
Stress on the neck and upper back muscles causes pain
because the body is subjected to an unnatural position
for extended periods of time.
Text claw: a hand or wrist strain that occurs from continuous
scrolling, texting or gaming. Individuals may
also experience numbness in finger tips and pain radiating
up to the forearm and elbow. Overuse of fingers
and thumbs also causes irritation of the tendons and
may lead to more serious conditions such as tendinitis
or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS): eye strain resulting
from constant staring at small text or from scrolling
through articles, messages or tweets. Common
symptoms are dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches,
Phantom pocket vibration syndrome (“ringxiety”):
the belief that your smartphone is vibrating when it is
not. Studies show that some individuals may experience
increased anxiety levels when they go an extended
period without receiving a notification.
Nomophobia: (“no-mobile-phone-phobia”) is a term
coined to describe the anxiety of individuals to be
without a smartphone. Sufferers obsessively check to
ensure the smartphone is present and constantly worry
about misplacing it.
A recent study in the U.K. determined that 66% of the
user population may suffer from this “ailment.” Symptoms
include increased anxiety, which can manifest as
a variety of physical symptoms including headaches,
intestinal troubles, and muscle tension.
In addition to the more obvious outward
physical pains and strains, there might
even be a hidden tax on your health.
The Long Game
Medical specialists have determined that the poor
posture caused, in part, by use of smartphones may
cause excessive wear on the cervical spine (the neck)
which can result in permanent degenerative changes
including arthritis. The neck is designed to support the
weight of your head (10 to 12 pounds) in an upright
posture. Bending your head forward to text or read can
place up to 60 pounds of stress on your neck muscles.
This excess strain on your cervical spine over the years
can increase the risk of cervical degeneration.
In addition to the more obvious outward physical
pains and strains, there might even be a hidden tax
on your health; when individuals use a smartphone,
they tend to slump forward and curl their shoulders in
toward their chest, thus restricting lung capacity. This,
in turn, reduces oxygen intake and forces the heart
to work harder to get oxygen to the brain. A lifetime
of poor posture can have a negative impact on your
The best way to ensure these potential symptoms do
not affect you is to stop using these devices completely.
Since this is not possible, given our increasing dependence
on technology, experts suggest the following may
relieve symptoms and prevent long-term problems:
- Reduce eye strain by using larger fonts. Hold the
device at least 16 inches from your face. Look up
and away from the screen frequently. Scroll by page
and not by line. Blink to ensure your eyes stay moist.
- During your next visit to a physician, physiotherapist,
or chiropractor, ask about neck exercises you
can do during work to help alleviate neck strain.
- If your wrists and hands feel sore or weak, try flexing
your wrists or pushing down on a flat surface
to stretch your fingers. If pain persists, talk to your
doctor or physiotherapist.
- Improve your posture by evaluating the ergonomic
setup of your work or home office. You can find
an online self-assessment tool from the Ontario
Ministry of Labour at: www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/comp_erg
- Take regular and frequent stretch breaks (every
15 minutes or so), following the stretching guidelines
provided by your doctor or physiotherapist.
If you are prone to forget, set a reminder on your
phone, computer or personal fitness tracker.
- If you have any of the symptoms associated
with nomophobia or phantom pocket vibration,
consider placing your device in a location more
difficult to access when you’re not using it and
scheduling specific times to check and respond
to messages. For more serious symptoms, consider
seeking professional counselling.
Be Tech-Strain Aware
Communication devices have provided benefits
beyond our wildest expectations. While those benefits
cannot be denied, they have brought with them other
unforeseen issues that may have a long-term impact
on personal health and welfare. Recognition of these
issues should lead management and staff to work to
prevent future personal health issues and to maintain
the productivity of the entire workforce.
The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not take into account your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting and financial professionals. Allan Madan and Madan Chartered Accountant will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.