Smartphone Overuse

While the “CrackBerry” craze is so 2006, some of the issues it initiated are still very real. For example, “BlackBerry Thumb” – named for one of the first smartphones to have a Qwerty keyboard – is a repetitive strain injury caused by overusing mobile phones to send emails and texts.

For all the ways in which they seem to enrich our lives, such devices can also cause physical harm.

In honor of National Physical Therapy Month, Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedic’s Charles Healy, DPT, discusses some of the ways in ways in which smartphones and laptops can cause aches and pains in users’ bodies.

“Often times we see a lot of smartphone users develop really poor posture from constantly looking down at their screen,” he says. “That typically results in them adapting with forward-rounded shoulders, excessive flexion in their neck and an overall slouched posture. We have seen this result in neck pain, shoulder pain and low back pain primarily, but it’s possible to get a multitude of other secondary ailments due to prolonged periods in poor sitting and standing postures.”

Haley says laptop users are at greater risk.

“Laptop users are actually more likely to develop poor postures than desktop users, because the keypad and screen are so close to one another,” he explains. “Ideally the keypad is at waist height and no more than a forearms length away. The computer screen ideally should be slightly below eye level. Most laptops don’t allow for both of these situations to be possible, unless you use a wireless keyboard instead of the laptop keyboard.”

If not treated, the long-term effects of poor posture can be quite serious.

“Early onset of osteoporosis, excessive thoracic kyphosis (hunch back) and overall global inflexibility are just some of the countless adverse health/physical conditions that can result from long-term poor posture,” he says.

Fortunately, the number of patients seeking treatment for these issues seems to be on the decline.

“We see teenagers and office workers suffer from these ailments the most,” he says. “I would actually say that we have been seeing slightly less people suffering from these ailments over the last few years. This could be due to the public becoming more aware of the importance of staying active throughout the work day, proper sitting and standing posture being taught through social media and TV, or simply from workplace environments starting to become more ergonomically conscientious.”

Healy recommends converting to standing desks whenever possible to allow for an ideal ergonomic workstation. As he reminds us, sitting for long periods of time in general can lead to a multitude of structural and physiological health problems.

He recommends seeing a doctor or physical therapist anytime your normal daily activities hurt for an unknown reason.