We all know that as we get older, we have to make certain adjustments in our lives. If we play contact sports, we soon learn our bodies don’t bounce back from strains and injuries as fast as before. If an activity demands fast reflexes, say tennis, we find that we’re not able to react quite as quickly as in the past. This is all common knowledge and accepted, if grudgingly. But, did you know that age can affect how we interact with technology and computers? Here are four examples.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If your hand and wrist is feeling sore, numb or weak after a computer session, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. The median nerve, which runs along the underside of your wrist alongside some tendons, passes through a narrow channel — the carpal tunnel. When that tunnel swells from repetitive use, such as using a computer mouse a lot or not having your wrists and hands in the right position while using the keyboard, it presses against the nerve. The chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome increases with age, especially for women. To prevent it, try typing more softly, take breaks if it feels like your hands are tense and take a 10- to 15-minute break every hour regardless, stretch your fingers by making a fist and then releasing your fingers as far as they’ll go, keep a stress ball handy, keep your wrists straight and don’t slouch — bad posture like rolling your shoulders forward can cause a chain reaction that makes wrist problems worse.
Did you know that your smartphone is probably seven times dirtier than a public toilet seat? Studies have found that one in six have fecal matter on them, and all of them are fertile breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria, thanks in part to the batteries keeping them warm, our breath and hands keeping them moist, and storing them in dark pockets and purses. On top of that, they collect the germs from everything we touch: ATMs, self-checkout stands, gas pumps, etc. Serious pathogens like Streptococcus, MRSA and E. coli have all been found on them, too. You can keep your phone clean with a microfiber cloth and a tiny amount of isopropyl rubbing alcohol mixed with water — but check your warranty first! Lysol wipes are another option and are advertised as safe for electronics.
Back and Neck Pain
Whether we’re using desktop and laptop computers, tablets or smartphones, bad posture is on the increase, and with it comes back and neck pains. The part of your spine inside your neck is made up of a small stack of bones called the cervical vertebrae. Those bones and the muscles around them work best if you are standing with your head and spine straight. When you bend your head forward and down — the most common position we assume when using our electronic devices — it can cause strain and even injuries to your muscles, nerves and spine. Put your tablet or phone on a table and angle it, instead, or invest in a standing desk.
Often associated with virtual reality or hard-core video gamers, cybersickness is the fancy tech term for vertigo caused by seeing fast motion on a screen, whether it’s a blur of CGI animation or by spending too much time scrolling web pages on your phone or computer. The results are headaches, sore eyes and even nausea. Some studies have found that up to 80 percent of the population suffers from it at one point or another, but as with many other conditions, we become more susceptible as we get older. Solutions include either taking your visual entertainment in smaller doses or taking breaks to move your eyes around the room. For online reading, there are now browsers that let you “jump” up and down the page to avoid the scrolling animation.
Contributing author Javier Colayco is the founder of Jump Browser, a free app for iPhones and iPads that lets users easily move around web pages instead of scrolling, thus avoiding dizziness and cybersickness. For more information, visit https://www.jumpbrowser.com/