Don't let that gadget smart your health

Sep 17, 2013, 00:24 IST | Kanika Sharma

In the world of smartphones and tablets, a new set of ailments ranging from Social Media Stress to more visible infirmities such as Cellphone Elbow, Tendonitis and Asthenopia are afflicting generations. If you're constantly on that smartphone watching the latest trailer, playing Subway Surfers or pinging mails every alternate second: beware, as Kanika Sharma finds out more

Social Media Stress or Facebook Depression
Facebook and its ilk can be more than just building a network. From mooning over your school friend’s Venice trip to envying the 1,000 or more friends’ list; social media has been causing a domino effect of stress, anxiety and depression. Dr Anjali Chhabria, psychiatrist, etches out a few symptoms that one can identify with:

Dr Anjali Chhabria, Psychologist
Dr Anjali Chhabria, Psychologist

>> Lack of conversation: It is sometimes seen in a group of closed ones (friends, family) where they hang out together, yet each or most would be indulging in texting or talking over their mobiles. For example, ‘A girl in her late 20s had complained to me that her husband does not have enough time for her and that even when they are together, he is busy on his laptop or cell phone. Even during fights, he would get distracted with a Whatsapp alert and would attend to that than resolving the fight.



>> Ineffective daily functioning: People often experience anxiety or a panic state when they lose their cell phones (no mobile phobia or nomophobia) and even when their Internet stops working. They may spend significant period of time worrying about it and wondering how they will ‘live’ without it. It may be a cause of prominent distress for the individual, which may affect his /her studies, work or personal commitments.
>> Isolation: Sometimes, individuals can also become withdrawn or aloof and may prefer to be only home with their computers / mobiles. Thus, they choose to be alone and may perceive others’ approach towards them as interference.

How to opt for that Digital Detox
With the word becoming official, this year, with its addition to the Oxford Dictionary, one beckons you to sit up and take notice of this tricky retreat. If you still think this word doesn’t mean business, the California-based company, Digital Detox, offers yoga, meditation, hiking, indulging in art and savouring organic cuisine. If you’re too much on the run, Dr Chhabria gives you simple and succinct pointers to simplify your analoged life:

>> Set a time-restraint. Do not allow yourself to use smartphones / tablets / laptops more than a couple of hours on an average. Another way could be to resort to them after other priorities have been met.
>> Sign up for a hobby class that ensures peer interaction and acts as a de-stressing agent at the same time. Lock that gadget away and attend to no calls or pings to participate in a creative environment holistically.
>> Alternate your routine by performing daily functions in a tech-free manner. For instance, resort to newspapers once in the day, find directions without GPS and spend one-on-one time with your loved ones. Staying close to nature and exercising areother routes to feel more at peace and in harmony.


Eye on the screen
Dr Preetam M Samant, Ophthalmologist, PD Hinduja Hospital,charts out how your eyes suffer with 24x7 usage of a smartphone or tablet:

Dr Preetam M Samant, Ophthalmologist

>> Red Eyes: Most of these gadgets are known to induce this as the person stares without blinking while reading on the gadget. The rate of blinking radically reduced leads to drying up of the tear cells as the fluid on the surface of the eyes evaporates at a greater rate. This eventually leads to redness and itching.


>> Hard Headache Times: As one reads from most of the smartphones / tablets at a close distance, spasm in the eye muscle is caused due to extensive strain on the eyes. With smartphones / tablets, one ends to read while travelling, urging your eyes to constantly focus on an object, thereby straining them. The strained eyes experience fatigue of the muscles. Also, the radiation of the screen often travels to the skull leading to prolonged headaches especially in the region of foreheads / temples.
>> Loss of periphery: Especially in the case of smartphones, one’s vision gets restricted to a certain dimensions of the gadget. With that, the eyes are more prone to fatigue. Also, as you tend to look at a tabulated space, your entire sight focusses on macula, which is the central portion of the retina. The peripheral muscles weaken as they are repeatedly neglected.

Help at hand
One obviously needs to reduce the number of hours exposed to a portable gadget at least. A 20-20-20 rule works best for thesight: read on a 20-inch display screen, only for 20 minutes and break it with a 20-minute hiatus. Other known measures are to splash your eyes with cold water or use an ice pack.

Bone beware
Dr Vivek Shetty, Orthopaedic Surgeon at PD Hinduja hospital, shares, “As these gadgets have small buttons and one is constantly texting, certain muscles in the thumb tend to get sore. Also, while being on the phone or holding a tablet, the elbow is strained, which has a possibility of being inflamed.” He spells out few prominent maladies:

Dr Vivek Shetty, Orthopaedic Surgeon

>> Tendonitis: Tendons are flexible bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis is the severe swelling of a
tendon. Tendonitis usually happens after repeated injury to an area such as the wrist or ankle. It causes pain and soreness around a joint.

Bone beware

>> Trigger thumb: Painful triggering or locking of the thumb is a common problem that can significantly interfere with hand function and the performance of routine activities. Those who resort to the extreme count of eight hours of texting are prone to this.
>> Neck spasms or spondylitis: As many people hold the phone between the neck and the shoulder, necks spasms are extremely common. Also in terms of tablets and smartphones, one is constantly looking downwards leading to Trapezitis, which is inherently related to bad posture.

Help at hand
Every two hours stretching is advised to ensure a break for the over-exerted muscles. Also, hands free or Bluetooth are easier to use though caution should be maintained, as these devices are reportedly known for radiation. A voiceover software can also alleviate texting issues.

What gadget gurus have to say
Manu Sharma, Director of Mobile Business at Samsung India avers that several features are being introduced to make these gadgets user-friendly. For instance, Samsung Devices (S4), improves accessibility for users who have impaired vision, hearing or reduced dexterity. It has features like Talkback, which when turned on, provides spoken feedback to help blind and low vision users.

Manu Sharma

For example, it describes what you touch, select and activate. Light and colour adjustment are also inculcated. The colour adjustment feature helps the colour blind as well. An exciting component of these gadgets is an Assistant Menu which enables functions to improve device accessibility for users with reduced dexterity -- one can pre-adjust one’s dominant hand (right or left), also reorder/edit menu options. 

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