When gadgets become a pain in the neck
In the poignant words of comedian Bill Bailey:
“One day we’ll have one hand with just one big finger for pointing at takeaway menus and dialling phones and the other hand will be a sort of plate shaped disc like thing for holding kebabs on and such.”
This was admirably stated many years before the explosion of portable technology made sitting on a tube train feel like the control centre of a space ship. Now commuters spend the duration of their journeys hunched over a whole array of touch-screen devices, staring vacantly and jabbing sporadically and not once acknowledging the presence of other human beings.
It seems like our preoccupation with new technology may have finally got the better of us, as doctors begin to talk of ‘the iPad shoulder’ and the ‘iPhone neck’ – some of the more modern forms of repetitive strain injury.
Touch-screen devices cause problems because they offer no support for the arm. Whereas desk computers allow for wrist support, tablets require the shoulder and back to work to keep the arm suspended in the air.
Dr Tony Kochhar, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and founder of the London Repetitive Strain Injury Clinic (RSI) said: “You can get severe headaches from tension in the back of the neck; an aching from the tip of your shoulder down the upper, outer part of the arm; pain at the back of the wrist and fingers from continuously using them; or a pinched nerve.”
Dr Kochhar is now seeing up to 10 new patients every week, many of whom are otherwise young, fit and healthy.
The head weighs four to five kilogrammes and can, if hanging over a screen, cause serious injury to the neck and spine.
The bad posture and awkward movements that come with looking at a phone or tablet could ultimately lead to a prolapsed disc which, if left untreated, could cause permanent incontinence or paralysis. It can also eventually cause joint pain and arthritis.
Solutions to the gadget problem include ensuring you activate your abdominal muscles while sitting, or trying the Alexander Technique, which works to realign posture without the need for surgery.
Find out more about the Alexander Technique and how it could help you.
Read and comment on the original London Standard article.