Do you need pain relievers every day because you're sore from sitting and typing, texting or slouching? I've dubbed this new pain syndrome "technomyalgia," because it causes pain and muscle soreness.
We are surely freed of the chains that once secured us to our desks, and while mobile devices enable us to stay connected anywhere, anytime with anyone, it's a trade out. It causes a lot of stress to the body, not to mention the possible damaging effects of all that electromagnetic radiation. According to Cisco, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world's population this year! There is such a thing as "Nintendo Neck," where kids get muscle cramps.
When I say "technomyalgia" I mean any of the following: upper or lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, neck pain, shoulder pain, numbness in the fingers, sore thumbs/wrists, hemorrhoids (from sitting too long) and tension or occipital headaches.
Is Everyone Texting, or Is It Just Me?
Wherever you are right now reading this, look up and notice how many people around you are on a phone, tablet or laptop. Americans send 2.5 billion texts every day, and most of us use our thumbs to type these messages. Nothing made me happier than my iPhone 5, which allows me to speak to my phone and have it translate my voice into words. No more fingers, hurray. The downside of this voice-to-text feature is both amusing and horrifying. I spoke into my phone to send a colleague this text, "Let's meet for dinner at 6," and he got "Let's eat lizards and have sex." I wouldn't have known except he sent me back a wink face emoji.
Forget about reptiles and hanky panky...
Mobile devices can increase your mental stress, because they have also blurred the lines between work and home. We are on call 24/7 to the world. Technomyalgia can not only cause muscle soreness, but it can raise your stress hormone, cortisol, and this taxes your adrenals. Disconnecting is hard, at least for me because my company runs off my laptop, causing me to run on caffeine. Technomyalgia could cause you nerve pain, muscle strain, spasms, fatigue and added stress.
What Can You Do?
- Disconnect. Take periodic breaks during the day to give your joints a rest and reduce your exposure to EMF or electromagnetic radiation.
- If you sit for long periods of time, and your bottom or legs become numb, get up and walk around more frequently, or sit on a round inflatable ring, or soft pillow.
- Massage your fingers, neck and wrists every few hours.
- Think of your posture and avoid hunching.
- Consider gentle stretching or flexibility exercises such as yoga or Tai chi. Cobra pose is a favorite for me.
- Fit the device to the job. If you need to type a long report, get a keyboard instead of tapping the screen or using your thumb.
- No matter where you are, make sure your arms are relaxed.
- Sit in a chair that supports your back or offers lumbar support.
- For some of you, sitting on an inflatable exercise ball can help. I've tried this, and it prevents slouching.
- Try an ice pack or a heating pad. Use whichever feels best to you.
- Natural homeopathic remedies like Traumeel sold at health food stores nationwide great for minor aches and pains. It's made of 12 natural ingredients (out of 14 actives) and comes in an ointment, gel, drops or tablets. It's a homeopathic pain relief product for joint, back and muscular pain, which is safe for long-term use unlike most conventional medicines.
- Capzasin HP or Zostrix. These are over-the-counter creams that contain an extract of chili pepper as the active ingredient. Over time, it may help with nerve-related pain, but you have to be very careful with application and cleaning your hands afterwards.
- Extra B vitamins. These can help with carpal tunnel syndrome for example.
- Hyaluronic acid, an over-the-counter supplement that helps moisten dry eyes over time. Other supplements thought to support healthy eyesight and reduce eye strain include astaxanthin, beta carotene, omega-3 fish oils, and zinc.
- Topical muscle creams that contain aspirin derivatives, such as Aspercreme. Be careful if you have asthma, this is sometimes a problem. Other creams, gels and patches that contain menthol can help.
- See a chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist. I'm a big believer in all three of these treatments and regular visits to each can decompress you, improve range of motion and relieve pain.
- Buy a hand paraffin wax bath at your local beauty store, or department store. You can put your hands in the warm wax and and the hot moisture feels very soothing.
Step Away From Your Phone
The average person spends nine hours a day using an electronic device, according to a study by researchers at Ball State University. That's about half of our waking hours spent hunched over or slouched in front of a screen. That is just crazy, even after a million years of evolutionary development our bodies are not yet designed to ride the information highway of texting, typing, tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, Skyping, and everything else. While, it's all very cool for your social life and business, it's not to your thumbs, arms, neck, back, brain, eyes or bum! If technomyalgia is causing you health problems, break your addiction slowly, wean yourself off your device by following my tips above. Before you break the habit, do share my article with a few final clicks!
For more by Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., click here.
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