Nearly 90% of U.S. adults own a smartphone (you may even be reading this on your smartphone as we speak!), and most of us keep them by our side 24/7.  

It’s important to remember that smartphones have the potential to cause health problems.  For instance, the blue light can cause insomnia by triggering your brain to drop melatonin levels (the hormone that makes you sleepy). Holding your smartphone against your shoulder as you talk can cause neck and upper back pain. The repetitive movements used for texting can cause tendonitis in your fingers and wrists. Smartphones can also decrease emotional connections because we tend to look at our screens instead of making eye contact with people around us.

Although smartphones can cause these (and other) negative effects, we wanted to point out how you can use your device to help make a positive difference in your health and wellbeing.

      1) Your smartphone can be a Medical ID bracelet.

           The iPhone has a built-in feature that allows you to create a virtual Medical ID bracelet to alert medical providers to any health issues or allergies you have -- and to list your emergency contacts. To create your personalized ID, press on the heart (on the white square background) and follow the instructions.  Activate the “Show When Locked” option so that in an emergency, medical providers can access the information without needing to unlock your phone.  

      2)  Your smartphone can be a fitness tracker.

           Forgot to attach your Fitbit when you left the house?  If you have your smartphone with you, no worries!  Most smartphones come with a fitness tracker that helps you keep track of the number of steps you’ve taken, miles you’ve run and flights of stairs you’ve climbed.  Having this data will help you celebrate your fitness victories, and encourage you to up your game on the days when you’re lagging behind.

      3)  Your smartphone can help you eat better.

           You know how everyone says, “There’s an app for that”?  Well, when it comes to nutrition, there really is an app for almost everything you need to know to achieve your healthy eating goals.  There are apps to help you calculate your recommended calorie intake based on your height, age and gender.  Calorie-tracking apps help you keep detailed logs of what you’re eating each day -- even breaking it down into carbs, fats and proteins.  There are even apps that will calculate how many calories are in a plate of food based on a picture you snap with your phone!

      4)  Your smartphone can improve your meditation practice.

            The spiritual practice of meditation also has myriad emotional and physical benefits.  It’s been shown to help people cope with depression and anxiety, concentrate longer and sleep better.  Meditation also relieves pain and decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  Whether you’d like chimes, soothing music, nature sounds or guided meditations, you can find an app that will help you with your meditation practice, increasing your happiness and health.

     5) Your smartphone can help you access healthcare.

         Of course, in an emergency, your smartphone can access emergency services to get life-saving help.  You can also use your phone to book an online appointment at Golden Gate Urgent Care, where our team is ready seven days a week to offer the medical care you need to feel better and stay well.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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