BY DR PETER KADILE
The advancements in technology have made it very common for almost everyone to have a mini computer that fits into their hands. Cell phones are everywhere. These mobile devices have taken over our daily lives and will be around for the foreseeable future. As people use their cell phones more and more, we are now seeing a lot of musculoskeletal problems such as neck and upper back pain caused by poor posture and slouching. Holding the cell phone to your ear for prolonged periods can cause elbow issues, arm numbness and tingling. Texting can cause finger and thumb arthritis.
Cell phones have transformed the way we hold our bodies. You simply have to look at our younger generation of kids and teenagers to see how their neck is always tilted forward and their upper back is slouched when they are using their cell phones. This poor posture is like having a 60 pound weight on your neck. This can’t be good, especially since the average person spends two to four hours in that position. Looking down at cell phones for long periods will cause the bones in the neck to mold themselves into a curved layout. Over time this will be harmful. The spinal vertebrae in the neck will become malformed and the muscles will become weaker, making it more difficult to keep the head in proper position. I truly believe we will have an epidemic of neck and upper back pain with deformities in the future due to the very common poor posture people have due to their cell phone use.
Correct posture involves keeping the head up, look straight ahead, and shoulders back. Hold your phone straight in front of you instead of bending down. I don’t see the cell phone going away, so be aware of the risks to your neck and spine due to being on your phone too much.
When your thumbs become painful, stiff or even locked due to too much texting on your cell phone. The repetitive gripping motions when texting or chronically holding a cell phone can lead to joint pain in the thumbs and fingers. If rest and over the counter pain medications are ineffective in relieving this condition, a cortisone injection into the thumb joint may be needed. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
Pain at the elbow or numbness and tingling radiating to the 4th and 5th fingers can develop if you spend too much time holding a phone to your ear or resting your elbow on a surface while you hold the phone to talk. You should avoid these positions that keep your elbow flexed for long periods of time. If rest and activity modifications do not relieve the symptoms, then surgery may be needed for severe cases.