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Eight ways your gadgets may be harming you

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Selfie happy people beware - repeated selfie taking may lead to an orthopaedic problem termed as selfie elbow. This was first reported when a TV journalist in the US developed a nagging pain on her elbow. On visiting the doctor, she found out that the pain was actually caused by her love for taking selfies. The constant movement and positioning of her elbows in weird ways, while taking selfies, led to the pain, which was caused due to overuse of her muscles and nerves.

Technology is undoubtedly helping us in our daily lives, but, we have reached a point where we tend to use gadgets extensively, and in ways, that may be detrimental to our health. We take a look at how excessive usage of technology and gadgets can actually harm you:

Radiation from gadgets: Almost all gadgets – cell phones, iPods and iPads, laptops, microwave ovens, etc, emit radiation. While studies have not proven any direct link between cancer and radiation from gadgets, some research has shown that constant exposure to radiation, over a period of time, may affect human cells, that might possibly help tumours grow. While there are alternating theories to this, some studies have also shown that cell phones could possibly reduce sperm count, particularly for those who keep their phones in their pockets for a long time.

Insomnia: The constant exposure to the light emitted from gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, iPads, and others, can interfere with our body’s natural ability to process daylight, and understand when it is time to sleep. The light suppresses the release of melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for sleep, hence affecting our circadian rhythm. This is the same with playing video games, or even watching TV before going to sleep.

Increases risk of infections: We constantly keep touching our mobile phones, and, as we go about our daily business, end up transferring disease-prone germs like E-Coli on to it. When cell phones change hands, so do the bacteria. A study conducted by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, found that out of 390 cell phones and hands that were sampled to measure levels of bacteria, 92 percent of the cell phones, and 82 percent of the hands had bacteria on them.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The repetitive motion which is involved while typing or texting on a cell phone, or laptop, can lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Also known as video thumb or swipers thumb, this is characterised by soreness or cramping in the fingers, wrist and forearm, which is often caused by the overuse while typing. This happens when a specific nerve that is located in a tunnel in the wrist gets squeezed by tunnels around it, which get inflamed. This results in pain in the hand and wrist, which can progress to the arm and neck, if not treated. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is common in people who constantly use their fine motor skills.

Obesity: More and more children, right from a very young age, are getting addicted to gadgets, and often, prefer playing video games or browsing the internet, to going out and playing. The same is happening to adults as well. This sedentary lifestyle, coupled with unhealthy eating, can lead to obesity in the long run, which in turns causes a range of illnesses - from diabetes and high blood pressure, to cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.

Stress: Its not just physical strain that can result from too much time spent with technology - a Swedish research team from the University of Gothenburg has found that people using Facebook constantly, and for long hours daily, are at a higher risk of developing stress, depression and mental illnesses. Social comparison, where the kind of photographs and posts of vacations, children or professional and personal achievements that friends put up, cause jealousy, the constant need to compare one’s social life with others, the need for likes and comments on posts and photos, cause stress and, sometimes, may lead to depression. Too much time spent online also leads to neglecting other duties, which again, can cause stress.

Hearing damage: We tend to take our music with us wherever we go, and this constant exposure to loud noise using headphones, can raise the risk of ear damage and subsequent hearing loss. While our ears can take high decibles for a short period, prolonged exposure to loud noise, is harmful. And earphones take the noise directly into the ear, hence causing damage to the ear drums.

Neck and back problems: The long hours spent sitting in a hunched position over your computer, or smart phone, can give you neck and back problems. By bending your head forwards, your neck and back has to support all the added weight of your head, putting a strain on your neck and back, resulting in back pain.

Tips to stay healthy:

- Avoid carrying your phone in your breast or pant pocket, and don’t sleep with the phone next to you. Also, it is best to use earphones while talking on the phone.

- Avoid gadgets for an hour atleast, before going to bed.

- While texting or typing, take breaks, and flex your fingers and wrists. Stretch your arms to the top and to the sides, while keeping your spine straight

- Swap your sedentary lifetyle for an active one. Exercise regularly, and eat right. Many people also prefer to stand while working on their computers, as this helps burn calories, and avoids putting too much strain on your back.

- The only way to avoid adding unwanted stress to your life is by cutting out on the time spent online, and focussing on other things that might make you happy - outdoor activities, sports, walks, yoga and meditation, or meeting up with friends and family.

- Adopt a neutral position while sitting at your laptop, with your eyes at level with the top of your screen. Keep getting up at intervals and do some basic stretching exercises.

- Avoid listening to music at a high volume, and give your ears a break by switching off at intervals.