I would like to call attention to two disparate yet highly related trends. The first is that computers, smartphones, and tablets, are being used by young adults and adolescents, both at school and the home, more frequently than ever before and there is little evidence that this trend will revert any time in the near future. The second trend I would like to call attention to is the sudden and rapid increase in the prevalence of musculoskeletal problems being reported amongst this same demographic.
Neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain increased among students starting in the 1990s and into the 2000s. After having studied the way in which students use tablet computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and view television, we have concluded that the most influential risk factor for the development of musculoskeletal pain in adolescents and young adults, is the use of information and communication devices.
If left unchecked, these types of painful conditions have a considerable impact on individuals, their families, entire communities, health-care systems, and even businesses. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the basis for the diagnostic criteria of neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain is relatively vague. However, the patient’s complaints and a thorough, manual clinical examination are still the most critical diagnostic factors. Thankfully there is a standardized examination protocol that works upon the basis of pain, stiffness, range of motion, and muscle tightness, to determine the severity of the musculoskeletal problem.
The consensus of the multitudinous elements affecting the development of neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain amongst the general student population is that there is a great need for a combined physical, social, and organizational approach to preventive measures.
Concrete solutions to this issue are propositioned by a disciplinary field called “Ergonomics.” Ergonomic studies are concerned with the development of environmental conditions and a reference framework for correct body posture.
Here we present you with some basic guidelines developed out of a thorough ergonomic study to keep your body adequately positioned whenever you use desktop computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and other electronic devices. Follow these recommendations closely to drastically reduce the risk of developing painful musculoskeletal problems, and you will notice a significant improvement in your quality of life.
• One of the first things we should attempt to do is to maintain a “good” posture at all times. The use of ergonomically designed chairs with proper backrests is essential to our long-term comfort.
• It is also crucial that our feet are always firmly planted flat on the floor or on a suitable support surface. This will significantly reduce tension in the muscles that support your back.
• At all times avoid bending or tipping your neck forward. This particularly lousy habit produces a muscular tension that inevitably weakens your torso and distorts the spine. Bending the neck forward is one of the most prominent ways to cause pain.
• Also critical is the positioning of your shoulders and elbows. As much as possible keep your shoulders relaxed and the elbows always closely aligned to the body.
• Final considerations include maintaining the wrists straight and avoid sitting in the same position for extended periods as this habit has been related to nerve compression and the development of myalgia.