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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Hours bent over phone can be pain in the neck

With handheld devices growing in popularity here in the past five years, so has the number of tech-savvy patients.
The Straits Times - September 4, 2012
By: Melissa Pang
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Hours bent over phone can be pain in the neck

NECK pain is a growing problem among tech-savvy Singaporeans who bend forward to use a smartphone or a tablet, or both.

Insurance agent Desmond Seah spends many hours in front of the computer and uses both his iPhone and iPad frequently.

As a result, the 39-year-old suffers from pain and stiffness in his neck, with the symptoms spreading to his hands.

With handheld devices growing in popularity here in the past five years, so has the number of tech-savvy patients, said Ms Goh Ming Rong, principal physiotherapist at Changi General Hospital (CGH).

Users of such gadgets now form about 30 per cent of patients using computer devices, she said.

A global survey conducted this year found that 74 per cent of Internet users in Singapore own a smartphone and about 30 per cent own a tablet.

One common problem among iPad users is that they place the device on their laps. But the ergonomic thing to do is to place it higher, on a table or desk.

Said Ms Goh: "The more the neck bends, the harder the muscles have to work."

To better understand the profile of those suffering from neck pain and how to treat them, a group of physiotherapists at CGH studied 95 patients at its physiotherapy outpatient clinic between January and September last year.

The study revealed that the majority of patients suffering neck pain were aged between 35 and 65. Most were either involved in jobs that required staying in fixed positions for long periods of time or did work that required prolonged repetitive manual tasks.

The therapists also identified slouched sitting positions as a possible cause of neck pain. But using treatment that combines manual therapy, exercise and education, most patients felt little or no pain after about four sessions.

To educate more people on how to prevent neck and arm pains, CGH is holding a forum on Sept 15. It costs $5 to attend the session. To register, e-mail public_forum@cgh.com.sg.

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