Overuse of smartphones can injure affected muscles and joints. Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Department of Orthopaedic Surgery highlights the danger signs.
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Smartphones are everywhere these days. Going beyond the basics of making phone calls and texting, smartphones have been transforming the way we connect with each other. Our lives revolved around smartphones as we use them to watch the latest news, play games, listen to music, do online banking and using Google Maps to guide our driving, to our convenience.
Constant gripping, swiping and taping away at your smart phone, whether standing or sitting hunched over, has its consequences. Stiff wrists, tightening of the shoulders and neck, lower back pain from hunching and dull ache in the arm are some of the common issues faced by smartphone users.
Such injuries are reversible in their early stages. So, while keeping such activities to a minimum is still the best option, practising good posture while using handheld devices can go a long way towards preventing more serious and irreversible consequences, according to
Dr Darren Tay, Consultant,
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
Although no study has established a definite link between device usage and RSI, Dr Tay has started seeing an increase in the number of patients with neck and hand pain, especially in the younger, more tech-savvy age group. The problem is probably more prevalent than we think. We have not accounted for those who self-medicate or seek more traditional forms of treatment. We only get to see the cases which have become severe," he added.
In the early stages of a repetitive stress or strain injury (RSI), people may buy over-the-counter painkillers or muscle creams to ease their aches and pains. Corrective posture exercises will also help. But if a condition worsens, one should seek medical attention, said Dr Tay.
See a doctor if:
- the pain in the neck-shoulder-back arm area persists or worsens rapidly, making it difficult to change clothes or walk;
- there is numbness in the arms or weakness in the muscles.
See a doctor if:
- the thumb or fingers can’t be straightened easily after bending;
- there is numbness in the hand and/or fingers.
Posture correction, mild painkillers, steroid injections, physiotherapy and heat treatment can usually reverse muscle and tendon damage in the early stages, said Dr Tay. In more serious cases when the condition has worsened, deep tissue massage, steroid injections or even surgery may be needed, he added.