Throughout the month of March, we’ve profiled the many ways that our digital technology — as revolutionary and (positively) life changing as it may be — routinely puts our bodies and brains at risk. Today, we continue the series with two more serious problems. Let’s dive in!
Problem 7: Computer Vision Syndrome and Headaches
Have you ever had a headache after a long day at work? How about night or color blindness? Is your vision still crystal clear, or is it all blurry and myopic? And when was the last time you didn’t crave a nice neck massage?
If any of these things — headaches, blurred and impeded vision, and neck pain — sound familiar to you and you routinely spend long hours staring at a iPad or iPhone screen, it’s likely that you’re suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). As you might have guessed, CVS is essentially eye strain. Your eyes, put simply, get tired. All the more so when you’re squinting to see text that is too small or too dim or bright. As your eyes fatigue, you’ll only strain them even further. And you’ll also overcompensate by sitting in less than ideal positions. It’s this that leads to poor posture, headaches, and all of the accompanying musculoskeletal problems in your neck and upper back.
The most important thing you can do to address Computer Vision Syndrome when working at an actual computer is to keep your screen at the proper height and distance. That is, an arm’s length away and at such a height that you can keep your neck in a neutral position. That way you’re not straining up nor down. And if you regularly find yourself needing to look at multiple windows side by side, it’s worth investing in a secondary monitor rather than reducing the windows in size, which will cause you to squint and strain your neck.
And of course, you know…take breaks. Notice a theme here? We sound like a broken record but because most of the problems associated with our digital technologies come down to overuse, breaks can solve or at least mitigate many of these issues. They don’t have to be long breaks per se. Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes or so. Then take 45 seconds to focus your eyes on a distant point. This gives the muscles around your eye that you’ve been relying on to focus your vision on the screen a little breather.
Problem 8: Cancer
While you may have been familiar with many of the problems we’ve discussed so far, it’s likely that “cancer” is a head scratcher. Really? Our digital technologies could be causing cancer?
Well, yes, and no. The truth is that the findings as of now are inconclusive, so who really knows. In some studies, the radiation received from heavy cell phone use was found to cause as great as a 50% risk of tumor development in the salivary glands. Other studies have found high risks to the brain. Just as many studies, however, have found no significant risk.
So, are our cell phones a cancer risk? They may be, and they may not. Nonetheless, none of us want to be test dummies as the researchers continue to compile data.
For this one, it’s better safe than sorry, right? When you’re on your phone, opt for speaker phone, headphones, or at the least, Bluetooth, which seems to have much lower risks. Don’t sleep with your cell phone by your head, and, even when using hands-free options, try not to carry your phone close to your body.
And, you know…again…take a break. Try to keep your cell phone use to a minimum.
A special note of thanks to Kathy Espinoza, for her help on the series.
Kathy Espinoza is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist, with dual master’s degrees. She has an MBA and a Master’s Degree in Work Science/Physiology. She has worked at Keenan for over twelve years providing ergonomic assessments and injury prevention training to office personnel, hospital workers, fire departments and city and county staff.
She taught Ergonomics in the Workplace at UC, Riverside for ten years. Espinoza was also the 2010 recipient of the UCR Instructor Excellence Award. Kathy has been a keynote at professional conferences on the topics of stress reduction and ergonomics. Later Kathy also covered the graying of the American workforce, employee engagement, the culture of wellness, working with multi-generations in the workforce and post-recession leadership. She has 54 articles published in the field of ergonomics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Time On the Conclusion of: My iPad is Killing Me!
In our final installment, we’ll take a look at two other pressing tech-induced problems for the human workforce. In the meantime, put yourself on speakerphone and look away from that screen!