Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Lori Leibovich Headshot

When Your Body Says 'No More Screens'

Posted: Updated:

As I type this, I am in pain. It begins in my cervical spine, continues down through my neck and shoulder, then shoots straight into my right arm; my fingers tingle when I tap the keyboard, and my forearm is slightly numb. This is what I feel every time I use a laptop or a smartphone, which is to say, I feel this way a lot. It hurts to do my job, lift my daughter, carry grocery bags, or make it through the day without popping Advils. The message my body is sending is clear: Stop typing, tapping and scrolling, now.

This debilitating repetitive stress injury is solely the result of my dependence on screens -- both for my livelihood and, well, my life. The pain began about 10 years ago during an itinerant year when I worked as a freelance writer from couches and cafes all over New York. For eight to 10 hours a day I would balance a Mac on my lap and have a phone scrunched between my ear and shoulder while doing interviews. Later, when I got a "real" job with an ergonomic set-up, I thought the pain would go away. It helped, but the damage had been done. You'd think the pain would be a daily reminder that I need to take time off from my devices, and yet too often I work through it.

At HuffPost's Screen Sense we publish stories daily about the importance of being mindful when it comes to tech use and how too much screen time can interfere with our relationships. But it's also damaging to our physical health. Last week on HuffPost Live, I was joined by Dean Fishman, a chiropractor and founder of the Text Neck Institute, and Deborah Quilter, author of "Repetitive Strain Injury." Their number one recommendation for people like me who experience physical pain from technology is -- not surprisingly -- to take breaks from it.

Which is just one reason why this weekend I will take part in the National Day of Unplugging, of which HuffPost is a media sponsor. A project of the non-profit Reboot, NDU is asking "individuals, families and communities to reconnect by putting down their smart phones, tablets and computers during the 24 hours."

This weekend I'll be with my son while my husband and daughter are traveling. I told him that we would be participating in NDU and his reaction was something between fear and horror. Then I reminded him of all the cool stuff we could do instead of staring at our screens: skateboarding, jigsaw puzzles, backgammon, Legos. After years of seeing me apply Tiger Balm and hearing me complain about my numb fingers, he said, "Mom, I don't think one day off is going to fix your neck."

He's right, of course. But it's a start.

From Our Partners