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Gadget hazards

By Ashley Wood

In the age of digital technology, gadgets are hot commodities, but they can cause pain and injury if not used properly. All that button-pushing and cell phone chatting can take a physical toll and result in an array of cramps, muscle tension, and even bacteria.

Your gadgets can lead to physical hazards caused by too much talking, texting, and typing. Photo by A.Wood

Laptop

Unlike its counterpart the desktop, laptops have enabled people to access email, documents, music, and images whenever and wherever. But this convenience has its consequences. Laptops can be the cause of neck and upper back problems, because just like its name implies, people sit with them on their laps, which causes hunched shoulders and angled necks according to Better Health.

“I don’t think many young people are aware that their posture and repetitive movements can cause them to injure themselves,” says Cherie Reeves, an occupational therapist at Honolulu’s Kaiser Permanente.

Awkward body positions can in turn lead to a greater risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, vision problems, and joint pains. Repetitive actions often result in muscle and tendon inflammation, causing pain in the neck, back, hands, and shoulders.

Smartphone

Nowadays, people use their phones to sync their calendars, music, information, and social networking, creating a one-stop shop for everything, at their fingertips. However, fast-paced thumb choreography can cause cramping.

Excessive texting can cause injuries like De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. Photo by A.Wood

“Repeatedly stretching your thumbs to reach keys can result in soreness and pain,” Reeves said. “So it’s a good idea to rest and stretch after awhile.”

Texting has also lead to an increase in De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. That’s when the tendons that pull the thumb away from the fingers (into the “hitch-hiking” position) become inflamed and irritated, making it painful to pinch, grasp, or do other thumb movements.

E-readers and Tablets

Fairly new to the marketplace, e-readers and tablets serve as an alternative to books, but also offer features of Internet browsing, video-chatting, and data storage.

Alice Cheung, a UH-Manoa student, said: “I use an iPad for school, so I usually have it propped up and use the touch-screen feature on it.” As a result, there have been times where her wrists have started to hurt. “Sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m doing [on the iPad] that I don’t realize that I’m straining myself.”

As more people spend time absorbed in some form of entertainment media, such as Kindles and iPads, there is a concern about vision health. Eye strain is often a function of lighting, so it would be best to be in a well-lit room or outside.

Mp3 Player

Listening to music at a high volume can cause hearing loss. All that risk may be falling on deaf ears, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Hearing loss has increased by 30 percent among those ages from 12 to 19 between 1994 and 2006. Today one in five U.S. adolescents between 12 and 19 years old has hearing loss.

Ear problems can arise from loud music and bacteria from earpieces. Photo by A.Wood

What’s more, the earphones and wireless headsets people use can harbor bacteria and fungus.

“A warm and moist environment like your ear can cause germs to build,” Frederick Henry, a doctor in internal medicine at Honolulu’s Kaiser Permanente said. By sealing the canal, wax can accumulate and it can lead to temporary hearing loss.

“So swabbing the earpiece with alcohol once a day would be a good way to prevent the harvest of germs,” Henry says. “But this principle should also be applied to other electronic devices, because they all are breeding grounds for bacteria and can cause infections if they have the opportunity to enter the body,” Henry explains.

Although there is a growing selection of technological devices, avoiding injuries is important to using the gadgets to their full potential.

“The best solution is prevention,” Henry says. “Know your limit, if you feel strain or pain, stop and rest.”