Heed warnings on overuse of smartphones

Experts say more and more people are suffering from neck pain, spinal injuries and other problems as a result of excessive use of mobile devices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 4:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 4:40am

People are so hooked on smartphones these days that they appear oblivious to the outside world. Be it lazing in bed, eating in restaurants, travelling on the MTR or crossing the street, there are always those who are glued to their phones, busily texting, browsing the internet, watching films or playing video games. Chances are that you are also one of them and are now hunching over your gadget as you read this.

University of Hong Kong students hand out smart advice to phone addicts

Such habits are likely to give you a real pain in the neck. Public hospitals in Central Kowloon receive some 25,000 new physiotherapy cases a year, 20 per cent of which are related to neck pain. The Hospital Authority warned that such patients were getting younger, with those aged 40 or under making up 30 per cent of the cases.

The so-called text neck syndrome is not unique to the city. Medical professionals elsewhere are reporting a similar trend in which mobile phone users, in particular youngsters, are suffering from neck pain and spinal problems due to frequent use of electronic devices. Given Hong Kong has one of the highest mobile phone penetration rates in the world – a staggering 17 million accounts – and that the people are highly attached to their gadgets, the phenomenon is hardly surprising.

Maintaining good posture can help prevent and alleviate back and neck aches and pains

It is just common sense that prolonged improper posture may lead to fatigue, pain and even injuries. According to experts, the pressure on our neck muscles is already three to five times greater when the head is titled 20 to 30 degrees. The interactive nature of social media and online games means users may get carried away and strain their neck muscles without realising it. The damage can only be imagined when it becomes a daily routine. There have been reports showing neck pain resulting in permanent spinal injuries, as in the case of a 14 year-old girl in Qingdao (青島), Shandong (山東) province. She now cannot straighten her back, after spending much of her time over the past few years playing online games.

Users have been urged to view the screen at eye level as much as possible and take a break every 30 minutes or so to avoid causing pain and injury. Perhaps you should also heed the advice, and take a break after reading this.