We already know smartphones can kill us, especially if we insist on texting while we walk into oncoming traffic or off of cliffs. But even if you take the proper precautions to prevent stupid smartphone accidents and injuries, simply usingyour phone on a regular basis is taking a toll on your body.
You’re obviously not going to stop using your phone. That would be insane. But you can take steps to make sure your Candy Crush obsession doesn’t result in permanent future pain. Here are eight injuries to watch out for, and how to prevent them.
You love your gigantic Samsung Galaxy Note 7, but it might be too big to, well, hold. Twitter users have been sharing photos of how their pinky fingers are bent, dented, and deformed thanks to too-big smartphones. Popular Science suggests these dents are temporary, but hand surgeon Rachael Rohde warns that these dents could be a sign of a different condition: Dupuytren’s contracture, which causes certain tissues in the hand to stiffen. Either way, it’s probably something you should get checked out.
The fix: Even if this condition is temporary, maybe it’s time to stop holding your phone for such a long time that you end up with a dent in your finger.
‘Tech neck’ sounds stupid, but the strain you put on your neck by angling your head down to check texts on the sly is very real. New York back surgeon Kenneth Hansraj has found that tilting your head down at a 45-degree angle puts approximately 49 pounds of force on your neck, while tilting your head at a 60-degree angle puts 60 pounds of force on your neck.
The fix: Hold your phone as close to eye-level as possible. Your boss won’t thank you when you do this in the middle of a board meeting, but your spinal cord will!
A study conducted in 2013 found that 84 percent of 18 to 24 year olds were already experiencing lower back pain. Let me repeat that: 18 to 24 year olds. Bad posture (slouching, slumping, and hunching over handheld devices and laptops) was the culprit.
The fix: Straight from your mother: Stand up straight!
For some reason, we’re so excited to take in tweets, texts, and all the information the Internet has to offer that we stop blinking when we look at screens, which leads to dry eyes and poor-quality tears. This might not seem like such a bad thing, except for the fact that infrequent blinking and dry eyes causes unnecessary eye strain (not to mention a higher risk of eye problems and infections).
The fix: Blink, damnit!
The eye problem is real; it’s not just dry eyes that you have to worry about. According to optician Andy Hepworth, the blue-violet light your smartphone (and other screens) gives off could put you at a greater risk for macular degeneration (which eventually leads to blindness). And squinting at a relatively tiny smartphone screen can cause vision fatigue and blurriness, maybe even temporary blindmess.
The fix: Turn down the brightness, turn up the text size, and take frequent breaks. Ultimately, if screens are a part of your life, there may not be much you can do to prevent macular degeneration caused by blue-violet light.
If you’re feeling pain and cramping in your fingers, you’re not alone. The informal term is ‘text claw,’ but what you’re actually feeling is probably a repetitive strain injury from using your hands so often (the good news is that you’d feel this way even if you were using your hands for something else, it’s not smartphone specific).
The fix: There are several methods for treating RSIs, including immobilization, stretching, massage, and not using your phone so frequently (and taking advantage of your phone’s many hands-free options).
Cell phone elbow
You’ve heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, but there’s another nerve compression syndrome that could be affecting you: Cubital tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome, or ‘cell phone elbow,’ affects your forearm and elbow. If you’re experiencing pain, tingling, or numbness that runs up the outside edge of your arm (but not in your wrist, which is why you ruled out carpal tunnel syndrome), cubital tunnel syndrome might be the culprit.
The fix: Cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused by prolonged flexing of the elbow, so you can help prevent it by not flexing your elbow as often. It’s also a good idea to switch hands frequently and use hands-free options on your phone.
Too much texting, tapping, and forceful phone-gripping with your thumbs can lead to thumb problems like trigger thumb (painful popping and snapping when the thumbs bends and straightens) or thumb arthritis.
The fix: Don’t make your thumbs do all the work. Text with your fingers, too!