11 June 2009
I have had a cell phone for almost a decade now. Over the years, I’ve noticed I’ve been relying on it more and more. I started out with a simple phone that had a few games that I didn’t use and some cool ring tones. Five years later, I had progressed to a point where I had a camera and learned how to send text messages on occasion. I now have a BlackBerry Curve. Besides a camera, I can now play games with full color graphics, check my email, update my Facebook status, text, check the current weather forcast and access a GPS map so I know where I’m going. My cousins have phones that are not only mp3 players, but they can download and watch movies. All this, anytime anywhere.
Unfortunately, all this cool and innovative technology is harming us mentally and physically with its overuse. I read an article recently on Ergoweb about a campaign to urge people to “unplug for sanity”. The article discusses a small movement to encourage people to take a break from all this digital connectivity because it’s stressing us out. Even executives and business owners are starting to see the benefits of turning off the BlackBerry and not checking the Internet on the weekends to get some quality of life back and spend time with the family.
This campaign might have other benefits too – a decrease in accidents and musculoskeletal disorders. A recent study at the University of Utah showed that drivers, while using a cell phone, were as impaired as drunk drivers over 0.08 percent blood alcohol level. Another study conducted by William J Horrey of the Liberty Mutual Research Insitute for Safety in Massachusetts showed cell phone use affected response time in drivers. They also swerved in their lanes and their ability to identify objects were impaired. What was disturbing in this study was that the tested drivers did not feel they were distracted – they had no idea that their driving performance was impaired.
Cell phone use has also been linked to MSDs. Students or business people, hunched over for an hour in a coffee shop, texting and emailing, checking stocks, are all prone to back and shoulder pain. When the BlackBerry was new to the market, we were also introduced to the warnings of the dreaded “BlackBerry thumb” from overuse of the teeny keyboard. More recently, the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine presented findings of a syndrome of cell phone use called “Cell Phone Elbow” or cubital tunnel syndrome.
Dr. Evans, one of the physicians who wrote the study, said that the elbow is not supposed to be bent more than 90 degrees for a prolonged period of time (even an hour is harmful). He likened it to placing your foot on a garden hose and preventing the flow of water. Holding your elbow in this position while talking on the cell phone can decrease blood flow in the arm, and increase inflamation of the ulnar nerve. This can lead to a loss in muscle strength, affecting mobility, and thus affecting everyday work tasks, hobbies or athletic pursuits.
So what does this mean? You don’t have to cut yourself off from technology and throw out your cell phone. Just try and limit your use. Take a break from the digital world for awhile. Your body, mind and spirit will love you for it!