Is technology hurting your health?

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Sometimes it seems as if technology is trying to get back at us.

As everyday gadget use accelerates, the number of occupationally injured patients is on the increase too.

We identify some of the most common gizmo-related aches and pains and how to avoid them.

Mobile elbow
Do you spend hours on your cellphone every day? Holding the phone to your ear can damage the ulnar nerve in your elbow – the nerve which sends off that tingling sensation when you hit your funny bone. This nerve can get stressed out, which may restrict the blood supply, causing numbness or even worse, the inability to perform simple but detailed tasks such as writing or typing. 

In extreme cases, this can lead to cubital (elbow) and carpal (wrist) tunnel syndrome – the inability to grip objects, chronic pain, and the deformity of the pinky and ring fingers. 

Tech tip: Switch hands during long calls or use a hands-free kit.

Texter's thumb
Texter’s thumb, also known as Nintenditis, Wii Thumb or iPod Finger, is a painful inflammation of the thumb joint and tendons caused by constant button-bashing on phones or video games. In the past 10 years or so there has been a 40% increase in the number of children with this type of repetitive strain injury. 

Tech tip: Take regular breaks from your cellphone, video games and hogging the TV remote. Try switching to the latest touch-screen technology.

Wii shoulder
This is the painful inflammation of the shoulder seen in patients whose only exercise is done with the help of a gaming console.

Tech tip: Sign up for “Wiihab” by taking regular breaks from your Wii activity of choice. Instead of playing virtual sport, go outside once in a while and try the real thing. Also, don’t overdo it if you’re exercising in front of a screen.

Mouse shoulder
Imagine your desk is a restaurant table; is your mouse where your drinking glass would be? If so, move it into a “healthier” position – where your knife or fork would go. Using your mouse in the wrong position could give you muscle spasms in your mid-back or shoulder.

Tech tip: Sit up straight at your computer and align your body with the screen. Avoid twisting or sitting at an angle. Take regular breaks for at least two minutes every half hour. Do large controlled movements with your arms, like swimming breaststroke in the air. Big flowing movements are better for your muscles and nerves than small repetitive movements. 

Earphones
Research shows that people who use headphones regularly have thousands of times more bacteria in their ears than those who don’t. Bud earphones (earphones that form a plug over the ear) are the main culprit for earache as they create a warm, moist atmosphere that bugs just love. 

Tech tip: Air your ears by removing your earphones once in a while. This will help to prevent bacteria from thriving. And, don’t share your earphones!

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