What’s the hot new challenge for techies over 50?
It certainly isn't what you think (ageism, skills relevancy or adaptability). It is technology induced disc degeneration, particularly in the neck. Years of looking at the computer screen and down at keyboards, mice, laptops, tablets and telephone devices has spurred the earlier onset of this normally later in life aging process. The neck isn’t designed for this specific use long-term and today neurosurgeons are seeing more patients daily in their late 40s and early 50s for a condition they used to see more for patients 60 and older.
What are some of the symptoms? Headaches, neck, shoulder, arm and hand pain, numbness and tingling down the arms and into the hands, those pesky crunching sounds when you do move your neck about, loss of hand strength/grip, that dreaded feeling of “I’m too young to have arthritis”. Symptoms are often confused with carpal tunnel (and so are treatments). How it is diagnosed? X-rays can start the process, but a true diagnosis cannot be made without an MRI. Can it be treated? Chiropractic care can delay the need for surgery by temporarily opening up the discs and pinched nerve pathways. Acupuncture can temporarily relieve some symptoms and pain. Physical therapy can help the earlier challenges. What if surgery is necessary? Disc fusion is the old school solution, reducing full functionality and motion in the neck and stressing the next discs above or below the fuse to bear the load (so they degenerate next), or titanium disc replacement aka, bionic neck. You’d think the scar would be in the back of the neck right? Nope, it’s right up front and off center.
What are some of the recommendations to prevent? Putting the technology down, taking longer breaks from computer work (15 minutes for every hour, won’t that make the work day extra long!), looking up frequently, and activity in general. The recommendation is even harder to follow with our dependency on technology and today’s youth being exposed to technology much younger than us Gen-Xers. Phones and gaming platforms before the age of 10, then computers in schools, college and beyond. While we think technology is enabling most, it is actually disabling many of us, at younger ages than ever. So take a break from the tech, and save your neck!