For this month’s column I found an interesting article online about spinal pain in adolescents and its relation to computer and tablet usage. This study was performed in Brazil, a country which due to government programs has seen a great increase in computer usage throughout all schools over the last 10 years.

The use of electronic devices especially in more recent years has become an important part in the lives of adolescents throughout the world, who regularly use computers to carry out academic and leisure activities.

The study consisted of 961 boys and girls aged 14–19 years who answered a questionnaire regarding the use of electronic devices and painful symptoms. Specifically these questions related to pain severity, a body diagram for symptom location, and questions related to the use of computer and video games over the last 6 months.

The results indicated that the presence of pain was reported by 65.1% adolescents with pain located in the following areas.

  • Thoracolumbar spine (point between the mid and low back), 46.9%.followed by
  • Arm 20%.
  • Neck 18.5%
  • Shoulder blade region (15.8%)

The triggering factors for these symptoms were reported as

  • Using a computer 31.8%
  • Physical exercise 20.5%
  • Electronic games 2.9%

Adolescents also indicated that pain interfered with activities of daily living like

  • Study tasks 22.8%
  • Sleeping 18.4%
  • Playing sports 17.6%

Additionally, 29.7% of adolescents said that the presence of pain made them more nervous. Finally and most importantly 32.1% of adolescents reported that they occasionally made use of analgesics, while another 11.1% reported that they frequently used these drugs.

This study is important because it indicates how computer and tablet usage affects adolescents in our modern world. This study assessed a variety of important measures regarding adolescent health. Not only did it demonstrate the percentage of adolescents in pain but also reported on important measures like pain location, triggering factors, activities of daily living and medication usage.

As younger generations are exposed to more technological advancement it will be interesting to see how we as a society adapt to these changes. Even now we are realizing that we have to take measures to either assist or limit computer and tablet use in our children. Balancing how much they have to do for school and leisure and supporting them with the best ergonomics possible is a challenge we all have to deal with.

 

Silva GR, et al. Prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in adolescents and association with computer and videogame use. J. Pediatr.  2015. Dec 28. (epub)