Saturday, February 4, 2012


The very real, and sometimes deadly, health hazards of modern gadgets

3 FEB, 2012, 01.22AM IST, ET BUREAU 


Soon after Blackberrys and smart phones killed conversation, modern gadgets have begun causing real problems for people's health. Young mobile phone users complain of shooting pain in their arms and numbness in their fingers. Doctors in America now have a name for these symptoms: they call it 'text neck.' Sitting hunched over a small screen for hours, typing away, damages ligaments, tendons and musculature in the back and the neck.

It could even hurt finger bones. But a pain in the neck isn't the only thing that Blackberry users can expect: they might also have to deal with the 'Blackberry thumb,' a painful swelling that comes from hours of typing text on the device's small keyboard using only two thumbs, which are not intended to do the agile job of typing, but to help fingers grip objects.

The iPad was Steve Jobs' last gift to humanity. It could also turn into a blessing for chiropractors. A recent Harvard study finds that people spend even more time hunched over their iPads than over their phones. The Pad's larger size makes it an attractive device to read stuff from; some even read entire books on their Pads. Many watch movies.

But all that activity means long hours in uncomfortable positions, which then lead to painful aches: hence the 'iPad shoulder.' But the deadliest affliction is the 'earbud oblivion,' which happens to people out walking or running while listening to music piped from phones or iPods through small earphones.

These block out all ambient noise, including car horns, train whistles and shouted warnings from others. The results have been tragic, but efforts to outlaw wearing two earbuds while traveling, tried out in some places, have proved unpopular and had to be withdrawn. Risking one's life to listen to music? That still seems to be a wildly popular choice globally.

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