Technology troubles: How your cellphone could be hurting you

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - How often are you tied to technology?

If you're reading this article, you're most likely on a cellphone or a computer - but the hours spent looking down could be taking a toll on your health.

Whether it's to text family and friends, check work emails or scroll through social media, the constant need to stay connected seems to control our lives.

John Wright uses his cellphone daily and says he always gets sucked into surfing the web.

"I'll be on one page and then I'm on a different site of Instagram, and it's just like 30 minutes later."

Cellphone users like John don't realize that every lengthy look down at their phone has serious physical consequences.

Lindsay Clark is a physical therapist at Sentara Therapy Center in Virginia Beach who said she treats people of all ages.

"Symptoms that we tend to see are kinda achiness - anything from headaches at the base of the neck, neck pain, muscle spasms, trigger points - things that they notice here."

Clark said about 25% of patients her office sees are people coming in with neck problems related to texting and technology.

Think about how your body is positioned when you're casually looking at your phone. Chances are, your head is bent forward and your shoulders are slightly slumped. Clark said when this happens, all the pressure is being placed on your neck and over time that can become painful.

The hunched position can develop what's known as a dowager's hump or buffalo hump. According to Merriam-Webster, a buffalo hump is "an excess deposit of fat localized on the back of the neck that produces a resemblance to the hump of a bison and is caused especially by excess cortisol in the body."

While this type of physical change could take years, it's the small daily actions that cause it to happen.

Dre-Kwane Poole, a Norfolk resident, told News 3 that while he hasn't dealt with any neck problems from using his phone, he experiences headaches.

"[I always get headaches from] just looking at the bright screen for so long," Poole said.

Staring at any electronic screen for too long can also lead to what doctors call computer vision syndrome. Some symptoms are dry eye or eye strain.

After neck problems, Clark said hand aches are a close second.

"People are developing tendonitis in that thumb just from swiping and clicking and texting and doing that."

So, what can you do so this doesn't happen? Local resident Derrick Moore suggests putting the phone down, but that's not feasible for everyone, especially with the constant need to stay connected.

She tells patients to "set a 20-minute reminder on your phone. As you're up, [it's just] constantly going off to remind you, 'Oh, I have to change my position.'"

Another option is participating in physical therapy or doing at-home exercises to strengthen your upper back muscles.

Clark said it's important to take action now because once this happens, it's really hard to change.

If you have any any issues mentioned in this article, call your doctor.

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