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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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