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Beware of health risks linked to gadgets and act now



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Researchers have sounded the alarm that has largely gone unheeded or unnoticed — that the dazzle of digital devices belies serious health concerns. Spending a tonne of time hunched on electronic devices, little by little, can have a toll on your spine, neck muscles and shoulders.

Doctors are seeing an upsurge of especially teenagers and children as young as seven with hunchbacks and abnormally curved spines due to spending an inordinate amount of time gazing into gadgets. This condition can be degenerative, often causing head, neck, shoulder and back pain.

You don’t have to be a trained researcher to notice that in cafes, couches and cars, we sit in still, staring into the gripping tech marvels that are our digital gadgets. In shopping centres, we walk with heads facing south. On streets, oblivious to the world around us, we stray into paths of speeding vehicles or bump into other people or poles.

The social and economic benefits of smartphones are undeniable, but we can’t be impervious to what could grow into an intractable health challenge.

A suite of studies disagree on the real size of the problem but are unanimous on one fact — the problem exists and is getting worse. A recent study reported that 40 per cent of the population aged between 18-30 years — the most economically potent age-group — spends more than four hours a day hunched, staring into their gizmos.

Another research conducted in 2017 revealed that an average person in the UK spent 24 hours per week — about three-and-a-half hours per day — on their smartphones. Whether we are spending 24 or 40 hours means one thing; we are bending our backs, straining neck muscles and slumping shoulders more than they can cope.

A further investigation by Australian researchers has discovered there is a growing number of people presenting a previously uncommon growth — known in medical jargon as “enlarged external occipital protuberances” — at the base of their skull. Yes, hornlike protrusions on the skull.

Just imagine the back of the neck muscles suspending a 5kg weight of your skull for four hours daily — the results can be dire. Those muscles get bigger and stronger as the skeleton grows new layers of bone to reinforce and widen the area, thereby disfiguring one’s posture.

In a world where it’s virtually impossible to stay away from devices, we must ensure the rewards of smart devices are not wiped out by their risks.

Here is the suggested prevention method: Lift your phone up to the eye-level while using it to avoid tilting your head and straining the neck muscles. From time to time, move your head from left to right several times and touch your ear to your shoulder on both sides. Finally, regularly engage in physical exercises.

We should not be subject to the dictates of tech devices. It’s time to take the eyes off the gadgets and face the looming health crises.

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