The New Health Threat: Your Smartphone
How to protect your health and still stay connected
Sometimes, technology can be a pain in the neck. And then sometimes, it can be an actual pain in the neck.
So much so that new medical terminology is arising as people flock to the Internet to figure out the aches and pains caused by all those smartphones, tablets, computers and gaming systems.
Heard of “text neck?” “Computer eyes?” These are just a few of the trending ailments wreaking havoc on our health.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to break-up with your smartphone yet. Make these 3 practices a routine regular to protect your health from that digital device.
Improve your posture
How do you stand or sit when you’re occupied with your smartphone? If you bend over the screen, neck cricked, then you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, this unnatural position, dubbed “text neck,” could be causing an increasing number of neck and spine injuries. As we gaze down at our phones for hours every day, we’re reversing the typical backward curve of the neck. THE FIX: Keep your phone at eye level when texting, emailing, or social networking (the higher you hold your phone, the better). This habit lets you hold your head up and your shoulders back, as you should when you’re trying to sit ergonomically at your computer.
To maintain ideal posture, it is recommended that you hold your phone at eye level. While standing, keep your arms close to your body. When sitting, lean forward—again with your phone at eye level—with your elbows supported on your knees.
Your hand position also matters. Experts also recommend operating your phone with two hands in symmetrical positions. This spreads out the strain on the arms and spine.
Cutting down on prolonged smartphone sessions will also help improve your posture and prevent other potential problems like eyestrain. Essentially, you should avoid spending extended periods staring down at your phone. If you must use your phone, break up the time with small stretches, such as rolling your neck.
Reduce blue light
The sun and your digital devices both emit short-wavelength high-energy blue light. These waves are great when they’re coming from a star as they help us stay awake during daylight hours by blocking the brain’s production of melatonin, which makes us sleepy. But when the light keeping you up is coming from a screen as you lie in bed, that’s not so good. Darkness naturally makes us sleepy, and staring at a phone late at night interferes with that.
That’s not all. Recent research has identified a process through which too much blue light can significantly damage cells in the eye. If the light kills off enough of these photoreceptor cells, scientists say, it can cause serious conditions like macular degeneration.
Luckily, both Android and iOS come with settings that can help reduce your exposure to blue light.
On an Android device, head to Settings > Display > Night Light. Select Turn on now to change the screen’s color to an amber tint, reducing the blue-wavelength light it emits. To schedule this change so it occurs automatically at a certain time of day, tap Schedule.
For iOS, you’ll find a similar option called Night Shift. Access it by going to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. To switch it on only when you need it, tap Manually Enable Until Tomorrow. Or make it turn on and off automatically by hitting Scheduled. These color-changing options should reduce the damage blue light does to your eyes and sleeping patterns.
Manage screen time
One of the best ways to protect your health from your phone is to use the gadget less frequently. To help with this goal, both iOS and Android have introduced “digital wellness” tools that inform you about and help you limit your smartphone use. However, you may not be able to access them just yet. Google’s version, an app dubbed Digital Wellbeing, is in beta testing, so you need to install Android 9 Pie on a Google Pixel phone in order to try it out.
To restrict the amount of time you spend on a given app, tap that program and then hit Add Limit. You can also set limits by category by heading to the front page of the Screen Time menu and tapping App Limits. Once you reach your time limit, the apps in question will appear grayed-out on the home screen, although you can manually override this block.
When your Android phone receives an update that will enable its time-management app, you’ll see Digital Wellbeing entry in Settings. As on iOS, you can set limits: Tap the No timer button next to a given app. Again, when you reach that limit, the app appears grayed out, and launching it produces a deterrent message. To override your self-imposed limits, you need to go back to the Digital Wellbeing menu and disable the timer.
Both Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing also include tools—Downtime on iOS and Wind Down on Android—that wean you off evening phone time by blocking your app access after a certain hour. Wind Down can also also gray-out the screen or switch into Night Light mode during that time.
Another option is to try a third-party creation like the free app Flipd, which gently nudges you when you’ve spent too long on your phone, or the $2 purchase Forest, which encourages you to take breaks by growing a virtual forest when your phone is idle.
If you are experiencing repeated neck pain, aching through your spine and even recurring headaches from prolonged use of devices, we can help! From a consultation, to an adjustment, a massage and even some quiet time away from your busy smartphone, the specialists at Brielle Integrated Healthcare can customize a solution to protect your long-term health from technology traps.