tech ailments map

How Our Addiction to Our Tech Devices Is Harming Our Bodies

The average person in the United States consumes roughly 12 hours of media every day and a large portion of that is on smartphones, tablets and our computers at work. Our modern relationship to our tech devices (such as slouching while working on a computer and constantly being on your cell phone) is causing harm to your body even if you don’t yet realize it.

What are the most common tech induced ailments that we should be aware of and how do you spot these injuries? To better understand the common tech ailments that Americans struggle with, I worked with Dr. Alex Lickerman of ImagineMD to analyze the top tech ailments in America. Using Google search trends, we were able to determine how Americans are being hurt most by their devices, and what’s happening to our bodies beneath the surface.

Here’s what we found:

According to Google search, the top 5 areas on our body most impacted by our tech devices are as follows:

  1. Thumbs (84,670 average monthly searches)
  2. Elbows (43,060 average monthly searches)
  3. Neck (27,370 average monthly searches)
  4. Eyes (21,510 average monthly searches)
  5. Shoulders (14,330 average monthly searches)


Our thumbs are most impacted by repetitive use of thumbs when typing or gripping mobile phones and game controllers.  Symptoms include pain, swelling, a sticking or stop & go sensation when moving. Tendons in the thumb or at the base of the thumb become inflamed and constricted. Common thumb ailments are better known as texting thumb, gamer’s thumb and smartphone thumb.  It is formally diagnosed as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis and Stenosing tenosynovitis. Thumb pain is the most searched for tech related injury and is common activated by prolonged smartphone use.


Elbows is the second most searched for tech injury in the United States. Elbow injuries can be caused by holding arms at acute, closed angles for prolonged periods of time while using mobile devices like cellphone and tablets. Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the ring and pinky fingers.  Anyone who’s held their phone for a prolonged period of time is likely to have experienced this numbness in their pinky fingers. This happens because pressure is being applied to the ulnar nerve which runs through the elbow and various tendons in the arm.  Common searches for this ailment include cell phone elbow, selfie elbow (yes this is actually a thing) and numb pinky finger.


The third most searched for tech injury has to do with tightness in your neck which is commonly caused by craning the head towards a screen for prolonged periods of time.  Most people who are impacted by this tend to spend long periods of the day (usually at work) staring at their computer screen. Common symptoms of neck injuries in this matter include chronic pain in the neck along with tightness in the neck and back muscles. Craning the head forward puts significant stress on the spine and surrounding muscles which causes this discomfort in the neck and back. This type of injury is often searched as text neck, tech neck and phone neck.


Staring at computer screens, mobile phones, tablets and other devices with large devices causes an extreme amount of strain on our eyes.  Symptoms of eye fatigue and computer eye strain include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain. Many people tend to experience these symptoms who are forced to stare at a computer screen for 8 plus hours a day. The constant contrast, flickering, and glare from our computer screens puts constant strain on our eyes causing them to become fatigued.


Tightness in the neck and back muscles along with chronic pain and inflammation is caused by maintaining hunched, rounded shoulders while interacting with tech devices along with repetitive use of touch screens and computer mice. Shoulder injury is commonly a result of poor posture during the workday and diagnosed as RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury. People commonly searched for this ailment as mouse shoulder, computer shoulder pain and gorilla arm syndrome.

To see the full analysis from Dr. Alex Lickerman of ImagineMD as well as unusually common tech ailments by state, check out the infographic below.

Matt Zajechowski

View posts by Matt Zajechowski
Matt Zajechowski is a content strategist at Digital Third Coast, located in Chicago. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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