How Cell Phone Addiction Is Making You a Victim of Major Disabilities
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Cellphones and handheld gadgets have become an inseparable part of our busy lives. In addition to being the handiest and effective way of communication, they have become our quintessential partner. They frequently double up as a utility gadget – an alarm clock, a calculator, a handy internet browser, etc. The numerous applications offer virtually unlimited uses. You can use your cellphone to control the lights in your home, play your favorite music or even monitor and track your physiology when you sleep. Your phone is now responsible for your smart living. All these features may seem overwhelming and extremely useful, but they come at a hidden cost. It is not the obvious cost you pay for your device and data connection but the hidden cost which you must pay as the cellphone invades your life.
What if we tell you there is something called as cellphone pain syndrome and you are suffering from it? Don’t believe us?
Entrepreneur India got in a conversation with Dr. Sidharth Verma, Consultant Interventional Spine & Pain Physician, Masina Hospital who gave us an insight on the common cellphone syndromes that we suffer from and what it leads to.
Giving an introduction about it he said, “While the symptoms of cellphone pain syndromes might seem different, they are a connected group that consistently occurs together as soon as the relationship with the cellphone is consummated. It is estimated that the average person spends almost three hours a day on the mobile or hand-held devices.”
The Text-Neck Syndrome
Repetitive use of handheld devices especially in awkward positions – like sitting on a bus or standing in a train, puts undue pressure on the bones and muscles of the neck. Many studies have estimated that stress levels increase five to ten times while looking down at a smartphone or tablet.
“Multiply the effect with long duration, add some bumps along the car/bus ride and you have a recipe for this lifestyle illness. Symptoms are neck pain, early morning stiffness and inability to look down on the screen for too long. Severe cases may have headache, dizziness, arm pain as well as upper back pain. The muscle imbalances can result in low back pain as well,” said Dr. Sidharth Verma.
“A recent study has linked the posture changes caused by the text neck syndrome to heart disease! Mild symptoms can be managed by rest (and avoiding forward bending of the neck), anti-inflammatory medicines and cold compressions. Exercises can help,” he added.
However, unresolved symptoms should be quickly treated by a pain physician. The use of advanced image-guided procedures has made minimally invasive treatment possible for these pain syndromes.
Another simple way is to either look down with only your eyes (keeping your head at the same level) or simply lift the phone to the eye level, instead of looking down by tilting your head.
The WhatsApp Thumb
This one is quite popular with various names like the BlackBerry thumb, SMS thumb, Gamer's thumb, Washerwoman's sprain, radial styloid tenosynovitis, de Quervain disease/ tenosynovitis, designer's thumb, mother's wrist or mommy's thumb. It is caused by inflammation in the tendons which control the movements of the thumb.
Overuse of the same actions over some time can worsen the symptoms. “Mild symptoms can be managed with rest (most important), anti-inflammatory medicines (oral or around the affected region) and cold compression. Severe symptoms not responding to these measures may need advance treatment modalities like – Pulsed radiofrequency current or ultrasound-guided platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections,” said Dr. Verma.
After the neck, wrist, and thumb, elbows are the most commonly affected areas. Also known as the cubital tunnel syndrome, the symptoms include burning, tingling, numbness or weird sensations on the inner side of the arm and elbow.
Verma highlighted other symptoms like weakness in the affected arm and inability to perform simple tasks like opening bottle lids. Treatment is essential, if left untreated, it may result in permanent weakness and clawing of fingers. Treatment ranges from lifestyle modification to interventional pain procedures however early treatment always leads to better results.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This is the second most common syndrome after neck pain occurs when the median nerve gets compressed at the wrist. This results in tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in the thumb, middle and index fingers.
If you are a user of computer keyboards, you are more prone to this than anyone else. These symptoms may become permanent and must be treated by the earliest.
There are some things one needs to keep in mind when it comes to treating it. “Treatment ranges from physical measures like exercises, habit modification and heat/cold application to interventional ultrasound-guided median nerve release. Your pain Physician can treat the condition and formulate a recovery plan,” said Dr. Verma.
In addition to the above, cellphones are known to cause repetitive strain injuries in susceptible individuals.
Mental Disorders & Stress
Cellphone usage results in interference with sleep patterns and causes cognitive dysfunction. Emotional symptoms like lack of self-esteem, need for constant motivation and even depression can be attributed to these devices. Mobile gaming can result in dangerous consequences. World Health Organization has recognized gaming addiction as a mental disorder.
Giving a perfect example Dr. Verma said, “Youngsters are very sensitive to the number of “likes”, “shares” and “retweets” on their posts and this social media takes a toll on their ability to forge long-lasting and meaningful relations. These effects can be minimized only by limiting cellphone usage and engaging in real-world physical activities.”
Dry & Painful Eyes
Constantly staring at the cellphone screen can result in dry eyes and lessen tearing. While viewing content on your cellphone, one often forgets to blink. This can cause strain on the eyes and result in an increased incidence of infections. The blue-toned light of these handheld devices can result in early macular degeneration and blindness. Staring at the narrow screen (even widescreens are narrow compared to the normal field of vision) leads to eye fatigue and blurry vision.
“All these symptoms are preventable but difficult to treat once they become chronic. Some tips are to increase text size, reduce screen brightness, use artificial tears (to help with dryness), blink frequently and take frequent breaks. If symptoms persist, you might need to visit an ophthalmologist,” said Dr. Verma
Tight Thigh Syndrome
If you are putting your phone in tight trousers, you greatly increase your chances of having what is known as the Tight-thigh syndrome. Also known as meralgia paraesthetica, this is a condition seen mostly in obese people with tight clothing. However, putting objects in your front pocket increases the risk manifold.
Symptoms include tingling, numbness and burning sensation in the outer thigh. Treatment revolves around lifestyle modification, radio frequency modulation, and ultrasound-guided cryotherapy.
Dr. Verma points out that, “Surgery is overkill for these conditions and your pain physician can help with the non-surgical treatment options available. Many of these treatment options are minimally invasive but highly effective with excellent results. In case the usage pattern and posture is not modified, the symptoms can occur again.”