Unless you’re super old school and have a home printer – chances are you’re reading this on a screen. And you’re not alone. Like most of us out there, your smartphone is how you get through the day – from contacting friends, to checking the weather and time.
Smartphones, along with laptops, have basically replaced how we interact with the world.
Alright, let’s be clear – not all screen time is bad. But there are some worrying trends that it could be harming our bodies in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
How much time are we really spending on screens?
According to experts, this number is around 76,000 hours over a lifetime. That works out at about 3 hours per day. Of course, this is different depending on your personal habits and generational differences in how we spend time on screens. But these numbers are staggering. So how is this really affecting our bodies?
Here’s what you need to know.
What scientists are saying about screen habits
Basically, no long amount of time spent hunched over a screen is good for anyone. Scientists have now given our screen habits a name. It’s called “text neck syndrome”.
Sure the term is a bit strange, but scientists are starting to draw strong links between time spent leaning over screens and texting and increased trips to the physio with complaints about neck pain and back pain. There’s no doubt that repetitive strain on the neck from looking down at a screen or peering into a laptop can lead to inflammation of the neck muscles, causing damage to ligaments and nerves, impacting everything from posture to tension levels. But these habits aren’t just repetitive, in some cases they’re chronic.
What are the physical consequences of bad screen habits?
While some effects are more immediate, others may be more long-term and can develop over time. You might start to notice some of the following:
- Strain to the eyes and vision – too much blue light can cause damage to your eyes. Sometimes after a long day at work, you may notice your eyes are a bit bloodshot – that’s a sign you’re spending too much time at the screen.
- Sleep deprivation – the blue light emitted from screens is known to interfere with the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Using devices right before bed-time is harming not just how long we sleep – but also the quality of sleep.
- Worsening posture – sustained leaning over can lead to worse posture over the long term. The more your head leans over, the more strain and weight you are putting on your neck. This can cause upper back and neck pain.
- Lower fitness levels – whenever we spend time looking at a screen, chances are you’re sitting down or lying in bed. This inactivity can be harmful, as the more we spend time looking at screens the less time we spend exercising or being active.
Mental health consequences
The effects of screen time aren’t just physical. Some of the most worrying effects of excessive screen-time are on mental health. And there is a myriad of reasons why:
- The use of social media has been linked to increasing rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, lower self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts.
- Heavy use of social media and prolonged screen time can take away from time spent with family, friends, and the real world.
- Less time spent engaging your body can lead to harmful health risks that can further compound pre-existing mental health issues.
How to recognise the negative signs
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in addictions without even knowing it. Recognising the signs can be hard, but once you are noticing them, it’s easier to keep track and start regulating the use of devices and ultimately find a more balanced lifestyle. Here are some early warning signs to keep an eye out for:
- You’re spending more time messaging your friends and family than actually interacting with them.
- Your back and neck ache after time spent looking at screens.
- Your posture is worsening
- You’re starting to experience headaches, bloodshot eyes, and general tiredness
How a physio can help
The reality for many of us is we live and breathe technology. If you don’t work at a computer screen, many of us use a phone or tablet for personal use every day.
But going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the answer.
A regular visit to a qualified physiotherapist can work wonders when it comes to keeping on top of your health, especially if you can’t avoid technology due to work reasons. A physio for back pain can work with you to develop exercise routines and plans to get you more active, and target symptoms as they arise. Physiotherapists will be able to diagnose your condition and help treat your specific issue.
We can all benefit from a consultation at least once in a while. Call a physio near me for an appointment that could turn your life around.