IBJI Doctors Want You to Understand the Impact, Know How to Prevent Injuries

It seems that almost every teen and young adult these days has a smartphone. In fact, a recent study by Pew Research Center reveals that 86 percent of young adults aged 18 to 29 own a smartphone. These amazing devices put incredible power into our hands, but they also pose risks that IBJI doctors want you to know about. Young people can be especially vulnerable to the dangers of smartphones, given the high rate of usage. Here are a few tips on staying safe and preventing physical strain and damage.

Don’t use your smart phone in traffic, whether you’re a pedestrian or driver.

Smartphones can distract our attention and decrease our awareness of our surroundings. A study by SafeKids.org reveals that 61 children are hit by cars every day in the United States. Most of these accidents occur before or after school. Public health and safety officials have expressed concern about a recent demographic shift. Teenagers are now much more likely to be hit by a car than younger children.

It’s important for parents to warn children about the importance of staying alert and focused to prevent accidents. The National Safety Council has launched a “Head Up, Phone Down” education campaign aimed at raising public awareness about the need for children and parents to put their cell phones down to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike.

Recognize repetitive strain injuries stemming from smartphone usage.

Frequent usage of these relatively new devices is taking a physical toll. Physicians and researchers have dubbed this new breed of cellphone-related injuries “digital disabilities.” They are beginning to educate the public about ailments like “text neck” and “cellphone elbow.”

Text neck is pain related to looking down at your screen for extended periods of time. A head tilted at 45 degrees generates significant force on a person’s spine and can impact ligaments, muscles and bones. Cellphone elbow refers to a nerve compression problem called cubital tunnel syndrome. Pressure on the ulnar nerve across the elbow can decrease blood flow and cause pain and swelling. Text neck and cellphone elbow are not only painful, they can actually inflict physical damage that requires medical intervention.

Physicians are also seeing patients for overuse injuries and tendinitis in the hands and fingers. Many of these injuries are directly related to the constant use of phones, according to IBJI specialists. Symptoms might include pain in your hands or thumbs, tingling or snapping.

Understand how to minimize and manage the effects of smartphone usage on your body.

What can you do? If you’re experiencing discomfort, understand that your body is sending you a message, say IBJI specialists. It’s not worth risking a future injury by ignoring these signals. Recognize that there are simple things you can do to minimize the impact of device usage on your body. Try to minimize your screen time and switch up which screens (phone, tablet or computer) you use to read and watch digital content. Be mindful about taking frequent breaks from your phone. Stand up, stretch your arms and wrists periodically. Gently stretch your neck and shoulders. Change your posture. If the pain is severe or chronic, see your doctor who can diagnose the severity of the injury. Smartphones aren’t going anywhere. At IBJI, we make it a priority to recognize how these devices are impacting our patients’ bodies and lives and to make sure that people know how to protect themselves from long-term consequences.

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