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Got Tech Neck and Cell Phone Elbow? March 3, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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On the rise: tech neck, cubital tunnel and cell phone elbow.

We recognize the rounded back, oddly angled neck, and whirring thumbs among users of today’s necessary technology. A surge in tendonitis in the neck and forearms has resulted from our overuse of not just laptops, but increasingly, cell phones. The American Physical Therapy Association has named BlackBerry Thumb an official workplace malady. Musculoskeletal strain has landed many an employee in the doctor’s office with complaints of sore backs, necks and arms, stiffness and migraines.

For around $200 some spas now offer a 60 minute tech neck massage to temporarily relieve these aches and pains affecting the fingers, hands, arms, neck, upper back and head. (Another popular spa service is a cell phone facial, typically costing $225-$250.) But the problem persists with our addiction to cell phones which now function as so much more. The tiny screens cramp our fingers and shoot pain from the fourth and fifth fingers up through the elbow.

In addition to using hands-free headsets, taking breaks, and rolling the neck, there are other measures to prevent long-term injury from overusing our devices:

  • Be aware of your posture and time spent on your phone. Often, awareness alone is enough to change behavior;
  • Use the full range of your muscles regularly to keep oxygen and blood flowing through extremities;
  • Keep ergonomics in mind and hold your device at or below eye level to keep your cervical spine in a neutral position;
  • Avoid texting while walking and certainly while driving;
  • Lengthen the spaces between vertebrae and increase circulation by practicing yoga;
  • Try sleeping with SquidFace™ or ComfyRest™ pillows;
  • If all else fails, try non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and physical therapy.
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Discussion: Distracted Driving February 4, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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Warning: This post contains over-the-top horrific, graphic photographs.

Many states have enacted cell phone/texting laws in an effort to save the lives of many by forcing the driver to focus on the task at hand. This follows the ethical reasoning of DUI laws, heavily enforced for decades. There is evidence that texting is more dangerous and more prevalent than drunk driving.

If you know someone who is still texting while driving, show them these photos. They will stop.

 

The driver of the car was texting.

 

When he swerved underneath the truck his body was cut in half.

 

Most of us have educated ourselves and our loved ones about the dangers of calling and texting while driving and have curbed our behavior. According to Distraction.gov, 5,500 people died from causes related to cell phones in 2009. Numerous campaigns have sprung up such as Oprah‘s “No Phone Zone.” Great. Love it. Let’s get more of those. I’ll jump on the bandwagon. State laws prohibiting cell phone use? I’m going to pass on that one.

What I have not heard are reports about other types of distractions while driving. Distraction is defined by NHTSA as

a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention away from the task of driving to focus on another activity instead. These distractions can be electronic distractions, such as navigation systems and cell phones, or more conventional distractions, such as interacting with passengers and eating. These distracting tasks can affect drivers in different ways and are categorized into the following three types– visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off the road.

I’m glad they mention those pesky “conventional distractions.” Ever taken a ride with me and my three kids? They are generally well behaved now, but when they were ages 0, 1 and 2 or 2, 3 and 4 they had many needs all of the time all which had to be met by me whether driving or not. One kid at the age of 2 opened a rear car door while I was on the highway. Another kid had his front-facing car seat buckled in, until the seatbelt, unbeknownst to me, became unbuckled and when I stopped at a light, car seat and kid came flying toward the front center console. And then there’s all the laughing, crying, whining, hitting, joking and poor word choice that remains part of our road time. This is not to be belittled. Sometimes when we arrive somewhere I’m worn out just from the drive. Oh we’ve played calming music and sang songs, tried the “boring” news on the radio, talked about the importance of not distracting the driver, but the mini-emergencies and sheer volume of voices would have any mom reaching into her purse for an ibuprofen–another distraction.

The creation of laws assumes an additional cost to taxpayers, places an increased burden on police officers to enforce the laws, and allows in the mindset of the public that critical thinking is no longer required since the government “has taken care of all that for me.” It removes the fundamental onus of personal responsibility, where instead we should be urging it. What can the DOT do about conventional, cognitive distractions? Nothing. They will not tell me who can ride in my car or have the ability to determine my level of distractedness at any given moment. They will never know whether my children or my cell phone is more distracting to me. Believe it or not public health folks, there are ways to change behavior independent of enacting laws. Did the photos move you?

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