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Tech-nitis: New “Overuse Injuries” From Too Much Personal Technology

It’s not surprising to people that I’m a “techy” type of guy. Reading tech stories about the latest gadgets is a nice occasional escape from work. One of the ways that medicine and tech intersect is in some “overuse injuries” that I’ve seen and talked with people about. When the Nintendo Wii first came out, there were many stories of “Wii-itis” and tendonitis-related injuries.

Last week American Medical News interviewed me for a story posted on their site [on September 27th] called “New Personal Technology Creating New Ailments.” The article opens like this:

When Mike Sevilla, MD, sees young patients at his Salem, Ohio, family practice, he often finds them text messaging or listening to music on portable media players. These tech-savvy patients may not realize it, but they could be on the way to developing health problems related to overuse of personal technology. That’s why Dr. Sevilla uses such exam room encounters as a springboard to talk about the potential health impact of today’s tech devices.

“I talk about listening to loud music and being distracted while driving. … I bring up those examples of people who were hurt or killed because they could not disconnect themselves from their cell phone,” he said. Dr. Sevilla and other physicians across the nation are adding questions about cell phone use and computer habits to the office visit at a time when dependence on electronic devices has reached unprecedented levels.

The article goes on to say that the most common physical problems that are seen include problems with vision, elbow, thumb, and wrist. These are due to prolonged use of computers and mobile devices like cell phones and electronic handheld devices.

In addition, our friend Dr. Gwenn also chimes in on this issue:

“A child might come in with thumb pain, but the last thing the pediatrician will think of is that it’s related to their cell phone use,” said Dr. O’Keeffe, an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media. “That needs to change.” The Hudson, Mass., pediatrician recommends that physicians ask all patients what types of technology they use and how often they use them. She suggests that doctors schedule a follow-up visit to discuss technology habits if health problems are suspected.

Thanks so much to American Medical News for talking with me. These technology-related injuries will become more common, and unfortunately, more deadly. It was only a few days after my interview that my local paper posted a story entitled “Texting Kills.” Texting while driving is an entirely different issue, but a tech issue that is being talked about more now.

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*


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