The perils of mobile phones

With Tim Wright - Gower Acupuncture-Swansea

When I was a child I often dreamt of being able to have a TV I could take anywhere. Not being a digital native, I thought these things to be the stuff of science fiction – James Bond movies or Star Trek. Looked amazing but the stuff of dreams, not reality surely? Fast forward over a decade and in my early 20s I got my first mobile phone – a brick that could call and text. This made life a lot easier – meeting friends, getting lost, breaking down at the side of the road in my trusty old Renault all became easier, less stress-ful. Safe in the knowledge there was a warm word or helping hand at the touch of a button.

Move forward another 20 years and that wonderful invention has grown and spawned many more apparently indispensable functions – the ability to keep up to date with all your friends via social media, to learn infinite different skills often for free, to listen to unlimited music, to relax and play games and puzzles. The breadth of entertainment and apparent fulfilment is breath-taking. Take a pause and consider what you have in your pocket – it is an amazing machine offering infinite choice and possibility.

The only small problem is that more possibilities, does not equate to more happiness. It’s the paradox of choice. Sheena Iyengar a professor at Columbia University in 1995 set up an experi-ment in choice. She set up a display in a gourmet market. Sometimes she showed 24 jams; other times she showed only 6. Whilst more shoppers stopped to look at 24 jams, only 3% bought jam versus 33% shoppers buying from the display of only 6.

We all think we want more choice, but the reality is that choice is confusing and stops us moving forward. Increased choice often leads to inaction and anxiety. Anxiety about whether you’ve made the right choice and anxiety because whilst you’re thinking about myriad choices on your phone you’re more than likely not doing what you should be doing.

So what should you be doing?

Happiness tends to result from aligning your actions with your beliefs and life goals. Your beliefs and goals can be singular or numerous. They can vary from wanting to be a good parent, wanting to achieve greatness at work, wanting to be kind to people you meet, to enjoying your recreational time to its fullest.

Your goals do not need to be one dimensional. More diversity may be better – helping to create a rich and varied life. One of my beliefs (amongst many) is that I want to constantly further my knowledge of acupuncture and the human body. If I spend hours on the internet looking up information about acupuncture this is a positive use of the phone, the use of the phone is furthering my life goals. If, however, I spend hours looking at cute dogs doing funny things then that’s a negative use of my time. This will likely not make me feel happy and perhaps even anxious.

Conversely, if my goal was to watch as many dogs as possible, online, to further my understanding of canine habits – why then I’ve just furthered my goals, and all is well.

There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to your belief systems and how you use your phone to further your life goals.

However, overuse of your phone can still lead to further harms upon your body – if not your emotions.

Texter’s thumb

Holding the phone in one hand whilst speedily typing out messages with the same thumb on that hand is something millennia’s have grasped with ease. Thumbs gliding effortlessly over their iPhone screen. Whilst I may be jealous of their effortless dexterity I’m not jealous of the potential strains of over-texting. Repetitive movements of the thumb can stress tendons and intrinsic muscles. This can lead to taught bands of muscle known as trigger points which can result in weakness and pain in the thumb and surrounding structures.

The thumb isn’t the only thing to be affected. Take a look around. If you see someone on their phone, shift to get a side profile on them. More often than not your average phone user has their head down, craned forward in a terrible posture.

Upper body posture/Upper Crossed Syndrome

The hunched over the phone posture typical of Upper Crossed Syndrome doesn’t look good and it certainly isn’t good for your body. Your head is a heavy weight for the muscles at the back of your neck and upper back to support. Ideally your head sits level on the neck, in a neutral position. Neither too much forward nor too much backwards. This creates minimal stress on the neck and upper back muscles.

The moment you hang your head out front, the muscles on the back of the neck strain to take the weight. Simultaneously over a longer time period the muscles on the front of the body shorten and tighten. This can lead to a stooped posture known as Upper Crossed Syndrome. The pain is typically in the upper back and neck. Massaging these muscles won’t help create lasting results though until the shortened muscles on the front of the body have been released.

To Conclude

Rather than straight out vilifying the phone as a force for evil – it ruins posture, creating unhappiness and anxiety, try looking at it in awe. It’s a miracle of modern science, offering untold opportunities for learning and self-development. So, show it some respect… and use it wisely. / 07764 254881


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