As a chiropractor, I never expected that I'd be sitting in the front row of a new technological revolution. But over the past 10 years, I've found myself battling to keep my patients healthy as our lives become more and more intertwined with technology. Technology has always been a humanitarian discipline; technological advances arise to meet the needs of the society that demands them. But while those new products, programs, and processes fill the niche they were designed for, their arrival also creates a ripple effect, forever changing our lives in ways we couldn't foresee. Most recently, we've all become increasingly concerned about what our reliance on technology has done to our most advanced machine -- the human body.
When a patient comes into my office for neck pain, I know that there's a 90 percent chance they're going to tell me that they sit in front of a computer all day. The same is true for back pain, chronic fatigue, trouble losing weight, and a myriad of other health conditions. This is because our bodies were made to move, and yet the demands of our daily lives don't require much physicality anymore. The result is a body in a constant state of dysfunction.
Your Chair Is Out to Get You
Most Americans now sit over 50 hours a week, and that is a conservative estimate. We've watched obesity rates soar as the number of "active" jobs have decreased; we've seen a pain killer epidemic driven by prolific numbers of neck and back pain due to prolonged sitting at the computer and on the phone; we've even coined the term "sitting disease" to explain the way too much sitting has increased the likelihood that we will develop chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. While everyone from the First Lady to your friends and neighbors encourage you to get active in your leisure time, your daily routine requires more and more that you remain still for hours on end, tied to a screen.
Unfortunately, health problems created by technology are so new that our medical model doesn't have a lot of tools in place to treat, handle, or prevent them. After a year of headlines like "Your Chair is Out to Get You," at a time when 53 percent of Americans' No. 1 health concern is the amount of time they spend sitting, and when health care spending is at an all-time high, things were beginning to seem bleak. But that's because we forgot one important rule: technology has always been a humanitarian discipline. Technological advances arise to meet the needs of the society that demands them.
So what's our demand? We want to feel better! And how is technology answering? With a field of tech-health products growing so rapidly that I couldn't possibly cover all of the new products in one article. From wearables, to sensor technology, to social apps, I guarantee there is now a product out there for what ails you. If like most of my patients you are a person tied to a computer all day long, I recommend trying one of these ways to stay healthy with technology.
There are now wristbands and clip on devices out there that make shopping for one an all-day affair. If you're looking for something to help you stay healthy at work, I suggest a wearable with an alert function that sends a vibration when you've been sedentary too long. My wife is a Jawbone UP advocate, while my personal favorite is the Lumo Lift, which takes things a step farther by alerting you when you're sitting with poor posture. In my office, I know that poor posture is often the cause of the most chronic neck and back pain conditions.
Your office may have a wellness program already in place, and you should take advantage of it. If your employer is offering to help you get healthy at work, take them up on it! But while gym memberships and on-site yoga classes are great, my advice is to try and find a program that actually addresses sedentary behavior while you're at work.
Who isn't on their phone these days? Why not turn your gadget into a tool for wellness with one of the many social fitness games available today. Under Armour's app, Fitocracy, and MapMyRun are a few of the more popular mobile apps that allow you to connect with friends, if that is the type of motivation you need. If you're suffering from a specific condition, such as diabetes, I encourage you to find an app that will give you a community of people just like you to offer support and guidance.
Make Technology Work for You
We've come to a pivotal moment where a need created by technological advances is once again being filled by technological advances. That is what makes technology so exciting -- its ability both to shape and be shaped by humanity. So find a tech-health product that fits your needs, and remember: technology works for you, not the other way around.