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How to Take Charge of Your Tech-Related Hand Pain

How to Take Charge of Your Tech-Related Hand Pain

You always make sure your hands look polished on the outside with manicures, moisturizer, and massages. But what about on the inside?

Repetitive strain injuries are the most common and expensive health problem, impacting hundreds of thousands of American workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost two-thirds of occupational illnesses reported are caused by lack of variation in job tasks, hitting factory and office workers especially hard.

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“Humans aren’t designed to sit all day, nor are we designed to have our hands constantly flexed in a repetitive motion,” says Remedial Therapy Specialist Melinda Fleming. What’s worse, many of us overlook everyday aches and pains even though they’re our body’s way of telling us a serious injury is on the horizon. This makes us more susceptible to repetitive strain injuries and chronic conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis.

With mobile technology fusing our personal and work lives together into one of perpetual texting, tweeting, and gaming, it’s now more important than ever to encourage RSI-preventing habits at work and at home.

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Symptoms of Tech-Related Hand Pain

When we use technology so prominently in our everyday lives, the small joints in our hands receive quite the workout.

Top symptoms include:

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  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Circulation issues

“The saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is so true,” says Melinda, who suggests hand and arm stretches the moment you feel pain or strain.

Adds Certified Hand Therapist Sarah Schlosser, “We have to change our postures and limb positions to ‘fit the machine’ versus the machine ‘fitting us.'”

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The sooner you make the tips below habitual, the sooner you can alleviate your hand pain.

Tips to Take Charge of Your Hand Pain

“We’re all ‘keyboard athletes’ in one way or another,” says Kay Kirkpatrick, MD, Orthopedic Hand Surgeon in Atlanta. “It’s important to pay attention to ‘form’ and stay in shape for your activities just like you would for a sport or workout.”

Desktop Computer

  • Make sure your eye line is level with your computer using a height appropriate chair.
  • Posture, posture, posture. Your head, shoulders, and elbows should be in line with each other. “Imagine there’s a string pulling your head straight up to the ceiling,” says Sarah.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks. Every half hour take a few minutes to stand, stretch, and relax your hands.
  • Keep your wrists straight. “When they’re straight, there’s the least amount of pressure on the median nerve, which is the nerve involved in carpal tunnel syndrome,” says Steven S. Shin, Director of Hand Surgery at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic.
  • Keep your elbows relaxed and bent at no more than a 90-degree angle.
  • Set a timer to remember to take breaks if you’re someone who’s easily sucked into your work.

Laptop

  • Try not to be sloppy with your posture. If not possible, “Change positions often; use a desk or various surface heights so you don’t find yourself hunched over,” suggests Sarah.
  • Purchase an ergonomic mouse instead of using the built-in mouse.
  • Like with your desktop computer, it’s crucial to keep your wrists straight, elbows relaxed, and fingers floating over the keyboard.

Tablet

  • Keep your shoulders in mind. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed.
  • Use accessories to your advantage such as a detachable keyboard and tablet stand to make using your tablet more comfortable. “Using a stylus pen can reduce having to repeatedly expand pages with your fingers,” suggests Sarah.
  • Change it up. Use both hands when swiping and expanding, and keep in mind you don’t have to press as hard when typing on your tablet.
  • Do something else when your hands/arms start to feel tired. “Move around frequently and keep an eye on your wrist and elbow positioning,” says Kay.

eReader

  • Posture is more important with an eReader than any other device, since many use them in bed. “Pillows don’t supply the amount of support to our back that we need to promote a good position,” explains Sarah.
  • Use a stand and prop it at a comfortable eye level. Holding the eReader for long periods can cause hand and wrist fatigue. If you feel strain in your neck, immediately change positions.
  • Alternate your hands when turning the pages.

Cell Phone

  • Keep your arms in front of you so your head isn’t down. “Type with both hands, holding the device so you’re equally sharing the weight,” says Melinda.
  • Write extensive e-mails from a computer so you don’t end up with dreaded Blackberry thumb.
  • Minimize texting as much as possible. “Your thumb’s basal joints take the brunt of the stress,” says Steven. “This joint is commonly affected by arthritis, more so in women than men.”
  • Accessories are your friend. “Cell phones have amazing features now that allow the hands to have minimal repetitive use,” says Sarah, who suggests:
    • Using a headset whenever possible.
    • Using dictation software for e-mails, grocery lists, and texts.
    • Using the speakerphone feature.

If building habits aren’t your forte…

Windows users can download Workrave, a free software that helps in the recovery and prevention of hand pain.

Do you have chronic hand pain? How do you alleviate it?

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Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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