Cyclist’s bum and four other modern health problems

We are healthier and living longer than ever before. But 21st-century lifestyles bring their own perils, finds Dr Stuart Farrimond

Benenden

Which of these five modern conditions are you at risk of developing?

Cyclist’s bum
Cycling is on the rise, with more than two million Britons saddling up at least once a week, an all-time high according to British Cycling, the sport’s governing body in the UK. But while being a good way to get fit, it can also have potential health issues.

One such condition is ‘numb bum’ — or peroneal nerve compression — syndrome. Excess pressure from the saddle on the nerves near the buttocks can result in numbness, pain and tingling in the groin or legs.


If symptoms are left untreated, nerves can become thickened and damaged, potentially leading to lasting problems down below.

Research shows 61 per cent of male and 34 per cent of female cyclists are affected. Adjusting saddle angle, height and handlebar position can help shift weight away from the vital nerves.

Text claw


Stepping on to busy roads while texting isn’t the only hazard for mobile phone addicts. Text claw can affect frequent mobile users, resulting in wrist pain, thumb tenderness, hand spasms and difficulty with gripping.

Better known among doctors as De Quervain syndrome, text claw is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The thumb is painful to straighten due to inflamed tendons. This stubby digit has evolved to grip and squeeze, not for the delicate, fast movements of text typing. Overusing the thumb in this manner can eventually cause tendons to become thickened and irritated.

The condition can usually be remedied by taking time out from thumb-intensive activities, applying ice to the area and taking pain relief if required.

Information fatigue syndrome
Life in the ‘information age’ can feel like weathering a never-ending storm of digital distractions, from 24-hour television to mobile phone messages and bulging email inboxes.

Dr Sandra Chapman, chief director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, says: ‘Our brain is exposed to an unrelenting stream of information via various sources of technology and media, as well as an overabundance of input from family and social responsibilities. The sheer volume of information we are exposed to every day is nearly 20 times more than we were exposed to 20 years ago.’

This information deluge is equivalent to trying to read 174 newspapers every day, research suggests.

Trying to process the incessant electronic jibber jabber can cause information fatigue syndrome (IFS) — also known as information overload. This can lead to anxiety, poor concentration, indecision, and a compulsion to check email, voicemail and social media.


Dr Chapman says: ‘Information overload degrades the brain’s ability to block out irrelevant information, decreasing efficiency and learning capacity. Those who experience information overload become paralysed by indecision.’

Take control of technological devices, rather than letting them control you, she advises. ‘Practise vetting and reading a single source of information to learn about a topic or inform a decision, instead of believing the more you read the smarter you will become.’

Orthorexia nervosa
A century ago barely anyone knew what a vitamin was. Today it is practically impossible to food shop without feeling a compulsion to buy vitamin-enriched breakfast cereal.

The media is bloated with stories of food scares or ‘clean eating’. This, coupled with often contradictory nutritional advice, has helped lead to the rise of orthorexia nervosa, an unhealthy obsession with trying to eat the ‘right’ foods.

With similarities to obsessive-compulsive disorder and anorexia nervosa, orthorexics can develop overly restrictive diets that, ultimately, can cause malnutrition.

Dr Jenny Kip, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, says: ‘People with orthorexia fear what will happen if they don’t eat healthily. That fear can be so extreme it consumes all areas of their life.’

Avoid labelling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because all foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet. So when compelled to buy only ‘pure’ foods, sneak in a few treats too.

3D viewing sickness
There is a good reason 3D television has proved a turn-off — it can make audiences feel ill, with some issues ranging from eyestrain or headaches to nausea. 

Makers of 3D TV and cinema content have worked to avoid such side effects, but it was never going to work well for the three million Britons with strabismus, a squint, and other conditions that impair depth perception.

Normally when we see an object getting closer to us, our eyes rotate inwards to focus on it in a process called accommodation. When watching a 3D film, our eyes focus on an area in front of the screen, making everything momentarily blurry, which for anyone with less than perfectly aligned eyes or not sitting directly in front of the screen can lead to queasy, headache-inducing optical effects.

Most of us will enjoy the odd bit of 3D exposure, but its use as a more sustained format will take quite a bit of finetuning yet.

Find out more about what Benenden healthcare can offer you at Benenden.co.uk.