Technology: Blame it or use it?

Four times a carefully placed pointy elbow into the ribs jolted me from my sleep. “Second hand snoring” is dangerous apparently; sharing a bed with a snorer can lead to higher levels of fatigue and even be a risk for hearing loss (Beninati et al., 1999; Sardesai et al., 2003). But I’m only an occasional snorer so surely a gentle nudge to encourage me off my back is all that was required. What’s the point in two of us being awake? The ferociousness of the assaults was denied yet I had the bruises to prove it. But there was no apology. My attacker didn’t know I had hard evidence – I had the DATA courtesy of my new posh purchase – the “Microsoft band 2”. I was violently woken at 1.33am, 2.41am 3.45am, and finally 6.30ish……… how selfish! My threats to leave the marital bed had no effect; it may have even been welcomed!

Technological advancement can prove useful; it provided concrete confirmation of my battering. We live in a world of comfort; modern equipment has given us the services we need to live a sedentary life. We work with our fingertips and relax with Netflix.  Smart phones and tablets are the modern soother, used to comfort, entertain and pacify unruly toddlers.

fear tech
The modern soother?

While Sony expect that more than 30 million play station four consoles will be sold by the end of 2015! Unfortunately sedentary behaviour is associated with adverse health issues and the development of chronic diseases including musculoskeletal disorders and back pain (Chen et al., 2009; Costigan et al., 2013). The normal human state – to walk around the world as we work, socialise, and play is progressively more unfamiliar to us. Prescribing increased activity levels as medicine is not only effective in treating musculoskeletal disorders, it has a role in treating psychiatric, neurological, metabolic, cardiovascular, pulmonary diseases and even cancer (Pedersen & Saltin, 2015). Exercise in adults can lead to a significant reduction in the occurrence of musculoskeletal pain and is associated with greater health related quality of life (Stovitz & Johnson, 2006). Even during episodes of lower back pain, advice to “take it easy” is less effective than guidance to stay active(Hagen et al., 2010). So, rather than focus on the detrimental impact of personal technologies, why not use it to provoke increased activity and exercise!


Technology is now wearable. The Microsoft band 2 allows sleep quality, the number steps taken and calories burned to be measured. It is capable of tracking heart rate, daily activity levels and exercise; it can even be used as a GPS running watch. It makes these measurements available at a glance and Microsoft claim that wearing one means “it’s easier to live healthier and achieve more”. The Microsoft band 2 is by no means the only option. Bands produced by Jawbone, Fitbit and Nike, to name only a sample, accurately collect and sync data to your computer or phone (Dontje et al., 2015; Ferguson et al., 2015). But do these bands really change behaviour, increase activity levels and reduce the risk of health problems…… Yes they do (Lyons et al., 2014) ….. But How?

“Reaching for the remote, the band sneaks out from under the sleeve and asks – could you do more? “

Observing behaviour changes behaviour – known as the “Hawthorne Effect”. Band wearers increase their activity levels due to the fact it’s being measured (McCambridge et al., 2014). It has been suggested that social support and comparison (facebook boasting) facilitated by the fitness bands may be one of the behavioural change techniques responsible (Lyons et al., 2014). But let’s be honest, it’s like wearing your conscience on your wrist. It brings the guilt of “not being active” into the now rather than postponing it, and turning it into a promise. Reaching for the remote, the band sneaks out from under the sleeve and asks – could you do more? Have you hit your recommended step count for today? Have you earned the calories to eat the fruit and nut?  So the obsession with technology often blamed for making us lazy, unhealthy and obese may have the potential to cure us, but only if we can tolerate having our conscience on our wrist. It has even developed a cure for the “occasional snorer” –  earplugs (Robertson et al., 2006)



Beninati W, Harris CD, Herold DL & Shepard JW, Jr. (1999). The effect of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea on the sleep quality of bed partners. Mayo Clin Proc 74, 955-958.


Chen SM, Liu MF, Cook J, Bass S & Lo SK. (2009). Sedentary lifestyle as a risk factor for low back pain: a systematic review. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 82, 797-806.


Costigan SA, Barnett L, Plotnikoff RC & Lubans DR. (2013). The health indicators associated with screen-based sedentary behavior among adolescent girls: a systematic review. J Adolesc Health 52, 382-392.


Dontje ML, de Groot M, Lengton RR, van der Schans CP & Krijnen WP. (2015). Measuring steps with the Fitbit activity tracker: an inter-device reliability study. J Med Eng Technol 39, 286-290.


Ferguson T, Rowlands AV, Olds T & Maher C. (2015). The validity of consumer-level, activity monitors in healthy adults worn in free-living conditions: a cross-sectional study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 12, 42.


Hagen KB, Hilde G, Jamtvedt G & Winnem M. (2010). WITHDRAWN: Bed rest for acute low-back pain and sciatica. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Cd001254.


Lyons EJ, Lewis ZH, Mayrsohn BG & Rowland JL. (2014). Behavior change techniques implemented in electronic lifestyle activity monitors: a systematic content analysis. J Med Internet Res 16, e192.


McCambridge J, Witton J & Elbourne DR. (2014). Systematic review of the Hawthorne effect: new concepts are needed to study research participation effects. J Clin Epidemiol 67, 267-277.


Pedersen BK & Saltin B. (2015). Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports 25 Suppl 3, 1-72.


Robertson S, Loughran S & MacKenzie K. (2006). Ear protection as a treatment for disruptive snoring: do ear plugs really work? J Laryngol Otol 120, 381-384.


Sardesai MG, Tan AK & Fitzpatrick M. (2003). Noise-induced hearing loss in snorers and their bed partners. J Otolaryngol 32, 141-145.


Stovitz SD & Johnson RJ. (2006). “Underuse” as a cause for musculoskeletal injuries: is it time that we started reframing our message? Br J Sports Med 40, 738-739.


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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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