Cell Phones: Indispensable Gadget or Health Hazard?

The advent of cell phones has completely transformed society, making it easier and quicker to keep in touch with family and friends, work from almost anywhere, listen to favorite tunes, search the internet, catch up on TV – the list is endless. But as Dr. Travis Stork, co-host of the syndicated Emmy Award-winning talk show THE DOCTORS, points out in the episode airing Friday, January 6 (check your local listings), high cell phone usage can actually be hazardous to your health.

I would love to share the following health concerns with your readers as well as THE DOCTORS’ tips to better incorporate this indispensable technology into our daily lives:

“Text Neck” – A high volume of texting - and looking down while doing it – can cause what has been termed “text neck,” or a loss of the natural curvature in the neck caused by the spine slowly and painfully flattening and straightening itself out. This was exemplified by a 15 year-old girl, complaining of neck tension, back pain and headaches, who visited THE DOCTORS for help. X-rays can help diagnose text neck.

Solution – To help bring back normal neck curvature in approximately one year, people should:

• Bring phone up to eye level when texting

• Let the head fall backward over the edge of the bed or couch for 5-10 minutes at a time. Repeat on a regular basis

• Buy a “posture pump” from a chiropractor that reinforces natural alignment

• Go for regular chiropractic adjustments

Acne – Cell phones pick up tons of bacteria from their surroundings, let alone all the germs they pick up from inside a purse, sitting on the bathroom counter, etc. Every time you text or hold the phone up to your face, the cross-contamination of that bacteria can lead to major break-outs in men and women of all ages.

Solution – To stay oil and germ-free:

• Clean the cell phone with a wet cloth, rubbing alcohol or antibacterial wipe once a day

• For people with long hair, pull it back into a ponytail to prevent transfer of oil and chemicals from hair products to the phone

• Go hands-free with a blue tooth ear piece

• Maintain a twice daily face-washing routine with warm water

“Cell Phone Elbow” (CPE) and pain in thumbs/hands – The second most common compression syndrome, CPE is the numbness, tingling and pain in the forearm and hand caused by prolonged flexing of the elbow and compression of the ulnar nerve i.e. holding a cell phone up to your ear for longs periods of time. Another common problem? Pain in the thumb and hands from constant texting and typing. The thumb is particularly susceptible to injury, as it lacks the dexterity of the other fingers.

Solution – To get rid of arm and hand pain:

• Invest in a great blue tooth headset

• Take frequent breaks while texting and practice using both hands so one does not become overused

• Use your phone’s predictive text to minimize the repetitious action of hitting keys

• Hold the phone up at eye’s level and closer to the body when texting or exploring the internet to lessen the strain on your elbow as well as neck and shoulder muscles

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