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How to Take Charge of Your Tech-Related Hand Pain

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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.”

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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 November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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