The excessive use of electronic devices is causing new types of aches and pains that have never before been registered. Know what their warning signs are.
Dayra Yolima Erazo Ordóñez, physiatrist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
Neck pain, cracking fingers, watery eyes, and eye strain. Irritability, anxiousness, poor sleep and stress. Any of these symptoms (or perhaps all, but that is unlikely) are warning signs that you may be overusing electronic devices and that you may have a condition that is new or that is becoming more common as a result of them.
In November of 2017, the Colombian Mobile Industry Association (Asomóvil) published a report that surveyed 1,900 users from Colombia about their telecommunication habits. One of the questions they were asked was how many hours a day they spent on their phones: the answer was an average of 4.3 hours. The study’s participants also indicated that they could not resist checking their cell phones for longer than an average of 28 minutes.
As Dr. Dayra Yolima Erazo Ordóñez explains – a specialist in physical medicine, rehabilitation and biological medicine –patients often come to her with tendinitis, “trigger finger” and wrist pain and due to excessive cell phone use, causing microtraumas in this region of the body.
The issue that most concerns Dr. Erazo is when patients return for repeated visits due to fatigue and exhaustion that is related to the excessive use of mobile devices. She refers to conditions caused by a lack of sleep, the most serious of which are associated with anxiety and stress, especially among young people who work.
“There are some patients that, while they may not undergo any physical changes to their ear, they may sense a buzzing sound. This is because their lack of restorative sleep causes fatigue and because they use telephones for periods longer than 20 minutes.”
A recent study published in the journal Applied Ergonomics found that the exposure to blue and white light that comes from telephones, computers and electronic devices at night, prevents the brain from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells the body that it is nighttime. This can delay the time it takes for you to be ready to go to sleep and over time, this can change the body’s biological clock. To prevent this from happening, the recommendation is to stop using electronic devices one hour before going to bed.
Co-founder and editor of The Huffington Post and an advocate for getting good sleep, during her Ted Talk, Arianna Huffington recommended leaving devices into another room and going to bed with a physical book. After about 20 minutes of reading, this can induce sleep.
Studies are still being conducted
For those who are concerned about electromagnetic fields and their potential to affect human health from the overuse of cell phones, it is important to understand that these are low-power radio-frequency devices and only radiate energy when they are turned on.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) explains on their website, as the distance from the device increases, the strength of the radio-frequency decreases, and therefore the exposure of users to it as well. Therefore, when sending text messages or checking e-mail, a person that holds a cell phone at a a distance of between 30 and 40 cm from their body is much less exposed to radio-frequency fields than those who bring the device closer to their face. While there is no conclusive evidence about the effects of radio-frequency fields, specialists believe that it is important to take precautions, especially with children and pregnant woman •
Minimize the risk of the regular use of electronic devices
- Keep these devices far from your vital organs. Avoid keeping it in your bra (for women) or your pant pockets.
- Try to go hands-free, both to protect your hands as well as your ears.
- Avoid charging your phone in the bedroom where you sleep.
- Try to use the device for periods no longer than 20 minutes.
- Stretch your hands, fingers and arms both before and after using these devices.
- Aim for balance: take active breaks and try to go for a walk.