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How screen addiction can lead to text neck syndrome and eye strain

Screen addiction can lead to text-neck syndrome
Screen addiction can lead to text-neck syndrome 02:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Our electronic world is creating a lifetime of patients for orthopedic doctors and optometrists.

They even have a name for it called text neck.

How much damage are we doing to ourselves?

These gadgets and our computers are handy, but if not used carefully, they can create real pain-in-the-neck medical issues.

Text neck, or tech neck, is all ours. It's definitely not something our parents' generation ever heard of.

"People come in fairly commonly anymore complaining of neck and head pain. A lot of it with a computer set too low," according to Dr. Thomas Muzzonigro, a UPMC orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Muzzonigro sees it every day. The results of our heads in the constantly tipped down position looking at our phones.

"What you're talking about is hyperflexion of the neck. And if you roll your shoulders in and do that, which a lot of people do with media with the phones, then what can happen is the muscles fatigue, and you start to get that neck and upper back pain."

Dr. Muzzonigro says that repetition could cause problems for the discs in the neck and upper back.

"It could lead to some pressure pushing the disc to go backward, which would be where the nerves and the spinal cord are," the doctor warned.

He says to roll your shoulders and neck to get the blood flowing and to address your posture.

"Shoulders back and head neutral with your chin up. And so either a headset or putting your phone in front of you like on a little stand that they sell, not expensive."

Dr. Muzzonigro says when you roll your neck, don't go too far back or too far forward, but roll to get it moving and the blood flowing.

Is this primarily an issue for older people?

Not not at all. In fact, Gen X, Y and Z need to pay attention to this, and if you really want to do your neck a favor, work standing up and get the screen elevated.

How too much screen time can impact the eyes 02:30

Have you ever spent so much time scrolling or texting on your phone that when you look up, the world is a little fuzzy?

It's a common issue for our tech-heavy younger generations, but is this something we should be concerned about?

The scary part is that because this screen-focused world is so new, doctors really don't know what the long-term impact could be.

How many times has a quick check of your phone turned into a half hour, an hour, or longer staring at the screen?

Alice had nothing on this rabbit hole or the strain we're putting on our eyes.

"With eye strain, can also come in migraines, things like that," says Allegheny Health Network optometrist Dr. Sarah Zambotti. "It definitely puts what we call an accommodative strain on the eyes. It's not necessarily hurting the eyes, but it can definitely put them through a lot of fatigue."

Dr. Zambotti doesn't think it has long-term impacts on our vision, but the risks remain.

"Well, we're still studying it. You know, we've just all started getting on our devices over, you know, the last decade more and more, and it's not going away anytime soon. So there's definitely a lot of research behind this."

To head off any issues, Dr. Zambotti says to take a break every 20 to 30 minutes.

"The eyes sometimes are really holding on to that muscle strain from working up close. It takes a little bit of time, a few blinks, maybe a few minutes, to get our vision back for far away," the doctor added.

And she says when you look away, look far away, like out a window, to give your eyes a break.

How long do you need to look away at a distance to get your eyes back to normal?

Dr. Zambotti says 20 seconds, or until things appear clear again, but do it regularly. Maybe even get up and walk around.

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