Are you addicted to your digital device? Handheld electronics often require repetitive motion on small buttons, awkward wrist movements and prolonged grasps. All these repetitive micro movements of texting, playing electronic games & tapping your tablet can take a toll on your hands. Have you experienced fatigue, soreness, stiffness, or hand pain from texting? If so you may have an overuse injury. To avoid ‘digital distress’ follow these 5 tips:
1. Check and realign your posture. Using tablets, laptops and hand held devices with the head down causes a forward curve of the upper back with the shoulders rounded forward. Not only does this put stress on the spine, but over time the nerve and blood flow traveling from the neck to the hands can be compromised. Muscles of the back, chest and shoulders can become imbalanced. Stand and realign your spine so that when looking from the side a straight line could be drawn through the shoulders, hips and knees. In yoga this is called ‘Mountain Pose’. Stand tall with feet firmly planted and your back straight, head erect and shoulders relaxed back and down. Hold your spine in a neutral position, making sure your lower back is not arched. If needed slightly tuck the pelvis, but don’t over tuck. With the arms hanging by your side the palms generally face inward, but for added benefit rotate the arms so the palms face forward. Maintain a relaxed aligned posture while you breath several deep breaths.
2. Stretch from Shoulder to Fingers. Interlace your fingers and turn your palms away from your body as you straighten your arms in front of you. Take deep breaths and hold stretch 10-20 seconds. Next, keeping palms and arms in the same position raise your arms overhead. Breath and hold stretch 10-20 seconds. With arms overhead bend gently from side to side to deepen stretch in upper torso. Repeat entire sequence 3 times.
3. Rotate and Stretch Forearms & Wrists. To release the tension in forearms and wrists extend arms in front of the body and loosely fist the hands. Circle wrists inward, towards each other 3 times, then outward, away from each other 3 times. Next with arm straight and palm facing down gently push on the back of the hand to point the fingers down to stretch the top of wrist. Hold 10+ seconds. Release hold, point the fingers upward, place hand on palm and press to stretch bottom of wrist. Hold for 10+ seconds.
5. Give it a Rest. Put your device down and your head up. Go outside and play! These stretches should not cause pain, so discontinue any stretch that causes discomfort. In addition to doing the stretches above throughout your day, as with any overuse injury, decreasing the frequency of the motions that caused the injury is the key to recovery and preventing re-occurrence. As the saying goes “If you do what you did, you’ll get what you got!”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Hand Protection Tips for Texters” where you’ll learn guidelines and positioning tips for safer use of portable devices. Order our WAGs ergonomic gloves to help with hand and wrist pain.
This article drew from information in the American Society of Hand Therapists’ national Consumer Education Alert on Heavy Use of Handheld Electronic Devices.