Sitting Disease, Nintendoitis, and Text Neck – Relieving the Aches and Pains of Technology

Technology is amazing. Have you ever thought about how blessed we are as a society that we have the scientific, medical, and technological advances that we have at our fingertips? How many people since Adam and Eve (or our caveman ancestors) have come and gone on this world, and never had the chance to experience automobiles? Television? Air conditioning? Electricity? How many people still go through life without these things in their lives across the world?

These technological advances allow us to experience life in a very different way. Productivity, communication, and work are enhanced through these modern marvels. Entertainment is only a few button clicks away. The over-use of technology, especially in poor postural positions, has also spawned a new category of health conditions and ailments.

This week, WebMD raised the question, “Do you have sitting disease?” Sitting disease, or a sedentary lifestyle, has been associated with a variety of health conditions that have become commonplace in society today. Medical issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, aches, neck and back pain,  and cancer have been linked to sitting disease. In 2010, the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that people who sit still for prolonged periods of time — such as desk workers or couch potatoes — have a higher risk of disease than those who move a muscle every now and then. Additionally, relative to those watching less television (<2 hours/day), there was a 46% increased risk of all-cause and an 80% increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in those watching >4 hours of television per day, according to the journal Circulation. The first step to overcoming sitting disease, and decreasing the risk of developing the conditions associated with inactivity is to put the electronics down, and start moving. Devices like a Fitbit may be beneficial in reminding you to move around throughout the day. Many smart phones have apps that will track your steps if you are not interested in wearing a pedometer. Start with a goal to move around more, to take the stairs more often, or walk laps around the living room during commercials when watching TV.

In addition to the systemic, metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity that are more likely to develop in our modern society, aches and pains related to our electronic devices are also on the rise. A few years ago, “blackberry thumb” was the diagnosis assigned to repetitive use injuries of the business executive that had their phone in hand at all times. Savvy businessmen are no longer the only ones experiencing thumb, and small joint pains in the hand from cell phone use. Blackberry thumb has morphed through different names over the years, including iPhone/Android thumb, texter’s thumb, and Nintendoitis. This repetitive use injury has resulted in surgery for some individuals.  Furthermore, our handheld electronic devices have led to even more aches and pains in other body parts than the hand.

Text Neck is the latest diagnosis associated with our handheld devices. This week, Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, released a report documenting text neck, or the mechanical stress put on the cervical spine (neck) when it is in a prolonged forward slouching position. Dr. Hansraj reports, “People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smart phones and devices. Cumulatively this is 700 to 1400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine. It is possible that a high school student may spend an extra 5,000 hours in poor posture.”

Text Neck - Force to Cervical Spine

Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head – Kenneth K. Hansraj – Neuro and Spine Surgery

Dr. Dean Fishman, a chiropractor in Florida has dedicated his practice to treating the effects of text neck, and has also created a smart phone application to help remind people to use their devices with better posture. When the green face is showing on the portable device, there is a better chance of having good posture, as it forces the phone to be angled in an up and down angle.

Text Neck - Good Posture

Text Neck – Good Posture – Notice Green Face on Top Left

On the other hand, if the red face is showing on the phone, there is a greater chance of text neck, as you are probably bringing your chin down to your chest in order to see the phone, inducing more strain on the muscles in the neck, which in turn contributes to more neck and back pain.

Text Neck - Poor Posture

Text Neck – Poor Posture – Notice Red Face on Top Left

The best way to overcome the technological induced medical conditions of sitting disease, Nintendoitis, and text neck is to step away from our devices more often. Take breaks during the work day to walk around and reinforce good posture. If we get up and move around, and put down the hand held devices, we can begin to establish new postural habits. Don’t get me wrong, technology is great, but when it starts affecting our health, it becomes a problem. In addition to increasing our physical activity, chiropractic care, accompanied with quantum neurology rehabilitation, and improving the nutrition that we put into our bodies can go a long way in providing symptomatic relief. Have aches and pains from sitting disease, Nintendoitis, or text neck? Give us a call and we can help you out. Until then, check out this inspirational poem called, “Look Up” by Gary Turk.

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