As the number of technologies we use on a regular basis increases, we can only assume that more injuries associated with technology will also increase. To get a better understanding let's first look at how much we actually use technology. In an online poll of 28,000 Canadians conducted in August of 2013 by Ipsos on behalf of Google, half the respondents said they owned a smartphone. Of the smartphone users, 99 per cent also had a computer, and 39 per cent had a tablet. Smartphone owners admitted their screen time to be about 86 per cent of their free time, or seven hours a day! More shockingly, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association reported that in 2013 Canadians send an average of 270 million texts per day!
What does this mean for our bodies? There is a rise of new repetitive strain injuries being reported. Repetitive strain injury (RSI), is a term used to describe a wide range of symptoms caused by the repeated movement of a particular part of the body. New complaints of RSI’s include text thumb, mousing elbow and iPad shoulder.
This newly coined condition, refers to a repetitive strain injury of the tendons of the thumb that cross the wrist. Unfortunately, our thumbs were designed more for gripping not for repetitive typing, therefore with continuous texting these tendons get overworked and can become swollen and painful.
To relieve any pain from texting:
• Take breaks if sending long texts
• Place ice at the base of the thumb or the area of pain for 15 minutes
• Massage the web of your thumb, back of forearm and front of forearm.
• Wrap an elastic band around the tips of fingers and thumb and open your hand against the resistance. This will help to make the fingers stronger. Repeat 20 times.
Similar to tennis elbow, mousing elbow is an overuse injury due to the fatigue and inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow. It is often due to repetitive stress on your forearm, such as point-and-click motions from moving a computer mouse. Pain can occur over the outer portion of your elbow and other areas of your forearm and elbow.
To relieve pain from mousing elbow:
• Apply ice to the outside of the elbow to reduce inflammation and pain for 10 - 15 minutes.
• An elbow strap or splint may help take the pressure off the inflamed tendon.
• Stretch and strengthen. Stretching the muscles of the forearms, wrists and hands can help reduce joint stiffness and muscle tension. Strengthening the muscles that support the elbow, including wrist curls, can also prevent worsening of mouse elbow.
• Rest. Take a break from the computer mouse for a few days. This will minimize the strain to the elbow and give it a chance to heal. Otherwise, the problem can worsen.
Due to its portability and versatility, many computer users have switched over to iPads. IPads are being used in bed, while commuting on the train and even while lying on the beach; all involving poor postures which strain the neck and shoulder.
Tips to avoid pain while using an iPad:
• Maintain Proper Posture: Stop slouching! With our heads down and flexed forward, the discs in the neck are heavily loaded and cause strain to the muscles in the neck and upper shoulders. Readjust your posture by straightening your back and shoulders and keep your device at eye level.
• Get the right set-up: Have a separate keyboard and stand. Researchers from Harvard’s School for Public Health found that simply placing the tablet on a table propped at an angle in a tablet case can significantly reduce neck strain and potential pain.
• Take regular breaks and stretch: Take regular breaks every 15-30 minutes. Use breaks to stretch the muscles in the neck, shoulders and chest. Getting up and moving will increase circulation and reduce toxin build up which can lead to more pain and inflammation.
As the old saying goes “everything in moderation”. Although computers and newer forms of technology may be efficient in doing the same thing over and over, our bodies are just not as capable.