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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?

More by this author

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 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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